Your “core” is a collection of muscles that span across your abs and up your back. Strengthening your core will give you improved performance across the board. With a stronger core, you’ll notice increased stability, better overall back health, and maybe you’ll even acquire those elusive six pack abs you’ve been dreaming about for so long. Personally, I’m always interested in finding new and challenging core routines to do just that.
Here are some great exercises that you can plug into your workouts to provide some intense activity for your midsection. Be sure to click the links for full video demonstrations of each routine.
Double Dumbbell Swing – This workout lets your torso do most of the work. Hold two dumbbells (one in each hand) and simply swing them in a smooth and controlled manner. As the video shows, this will really punish your abdominal muscles. Aside from some shoulder strength, this exercise is virtually all core.
Turkish Get Up – This is a new workout for me, but it has actually been around for generations. Old-timey strongmen used to do workouts like this before the modern era of gyms, Bowflexes, and cardio machines. When done correctly, your entire body will feel it. Be sure to watch the video for the exact form, but basically you are transitioning from a prone position to standing and laying back down again all while holding a weight over your head. Basic but fun.
Plank/Bird Dog – This workout has been in my rotation for some time now. I first heard about it when I was training for a marathon last year. It seems that many runners swear by it as it really increases your stability and allows you to have a more efficient running form. To increase difficulty, perform the “bird dog” on your toes instead of your knees while still maintaining a straight line with your body.
Scissor Kicks – Lower abs are usually the trouble areas for most of us. Scissor kicks and leg lifts can help with that. As the video shows, the small kicking motions really apply a lot of pressure to your abs and provide both strength and stability conditioning. For extra difficulty, place your hands out to the side of your torso instead of using them as leverage beneath your butt.
Captain’s Chair – This exercise requires some equipment, but it’s totally worth it. A recent study has shown that this is actually one of the most effective areas at working your obliques (the muscles that run along the side of your midsection). Plus, the name of the exercise always makes me think of Captain Kirk.
(photo by Adam Baker)