Training the core has become one of the most popular and seemingly misunderstood concepts in sports training. There are a lot of different ideas and opinions on how to train the core. I can sum up my theory on training the core in one easy sentence. The best way to train the core is to stabilize the core and move other things. Training the core is that simple! If we take the principle of stabilizing the core and moving other things, it sounds a lot like what we do in most sports. In track and field, we have to stabilize the core while our arms and legs move. In baseball, we have to stabilize the core as we use our hips and arms to swing the bat. So why the heck would you ever train your core by doing a sit up? Sit ups and ab crunches are two of the worst exercises out there and actually create injuries (read more here) but they still remain one of the most popular core exercises out there unfortunately.
One of the staples in my core training are planks. In a 2013 study, they found that planks activate the core muscles more than isolation exercises such as ab crunches or supermans. I love front planks and side planks! The ability to add different variations keeps planks challenging and fresh! You can do the front and side planks on your hands or on your elbows just pay attention to proper mechanics. If you think planks are easy, guaranteed there’s a variation out there that can challenge you, sometimes you just need to think outside the box. I think it’s good to test the core in different manners and the numerous variations allow you to do this. For instance, one of my favorite front plank variations, and a very challenge one, is:
Outside of planks, I like other exercises where we stabilize the core and move other things. The possibilities are endless! Some examples are suitcase carries, bird dogs, curl ups and stir the pot. YouTube is a great resource but always do your homework as form absolutely is super important! I think that sometimes trainers want to make things look too flashy or perhaps they’ve watched Rocky one too many times and they incorporate exercises that are less than optimal for training the core in a safe manner. Here’s a couple of my favorite core exercises that I recommend trying out:
Overall, when it comes to training the core, keep it simple! Abide by the rule of stabilizing the core and moving other things. If you do that, you’ll find that you get terrific results training your core. Always pay attention to form and don’t get caught up in the hype of sit ups and ab crunches, they are 2 of the worst core exercises you can do. If you have any questions, just let me know and I’d be happy to help!
-Dr. Brian Damhoff