Core Training, More Than Just the Six-Pack

Sure, many people are in search of the six-pack ab look, but that’s achieved more often than not through nutrition and not through ab exercises.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at strengthening your core to support your life and your training goals.

Many people think that the core is just their abs, or maybe just those six-pack abs (your rectus abdominis), but it’s much more than that. One definition of the core includes muscles around the abdomen area: your transverse abdominis (TA), pelvic floor, diaphragm, multifidus, internal and external obliques and lastly your rectus abs.

But your core can also be considered any muscle of the trunk that is working to stabilize your lumbo-pelvic hip region and your shoulder girdle (shoulder blade and arm bone to the thorax). When we take this idea into consideration, this includes the muscles that cross the pelvis and shoulders: your three gluteal muscles, the small internal and external hip rotators, the psoas, the pecs, traps, lats and even the rotator cuff muscles.

The Core’s Job

The core’s job is to stabilize your spine so that force can be transmitted from your legs (hips) through your torso and through to your arms. (And, in circus, this force transfer can go the other way: from the arms through the torso to your legs (hips).

Exercises

To ensure that we are keeping the spine safe while strengthening your core, you want to think more than just planks, side-planks and hollow-bodies. We want to be thinking cross-body and anti-extension and anti-rotation.

Below are some exercises outside what most people think of when they think about training their core. And if you’ve trained with me in the last several years, whether in a group class, privately or online, I’ve made you do these exercises. Made feels harsh. I wrote them in your program, because they are essential not only for daily life, but for fitness and circus training.

The exercises below I highly recommend adding to your training routines as a way to develop your whole core, from your shoulder girdle through your trunk and pelvis. They will help you create stability in your shoulder girdle and pelvis, improve balance and strengthen your core and help prepare it for 360 degrees of work.

Half Kneeling Inline Chop

Not going to lie, this is the easier of these first two cross-body, diagonal patterns.

Important things to remember:

  • Foot closest to the cable machine (band anchor point) is forward.
  • Front foot inline with back knee and foot. **If this seems too much of a balance challenge, then begin with front foot just slightly to the side and work towards bringing your feet into that inline position.
  • Back toes curled under.
  • Back glute contracted throughout the exercise.
  • Exhale to brace the ribs into a good positon over the pelvis.
  • Arms will move the most and shoulders will move only a little. This is an anti-rotation exercise, you should not be rotating through your torso.
  • Extra challenge: follow your hands with your eyes.
  • Perform 6-12 reps on each side. Making sure to perform each rep with good form and to stop if form cannot be maintained.

Half Kneeling Inline Lift

Definitely the exercise that almost everyone finds more challenging.

Important things to remember:

  • Foot furthest from the cable machine/band anchor point is forward
  • Front foot inline with back knee and foot. **If this seems too much of a balance challenge, then begin with front foot just slightly to the side and work towards bringing your feet into that inline position.
  • Back toes curled under.
  • Back glute contracted throughout the exercise.
  • Exhale to brace the ribs into a good positon over the pelvis.
  • Arms will move the most and shoulders will move only a little. This is an anti-rotation exercise, you should not be rotating through your torso.
  • Extra challenge: follow your hands with your eyes.
  • Perform 6-12 reps on each side. Making sure to perform each rep with good form and to stop if form cannot be maintained.

Bear Crawl

The biggest thing to be aware of is that many people think this is a pretty easy exercise, but when done correctly, it’s really quite challenging and if you wear a heart rate monitor you’ll see your heart rate spike when you’re finished with a set of bear crawls.

Important things to remember:

  • Need to be stabilizing through the shoulder girdle and the hips. Press down into the floor from your shoulder to your hands and press through the hips to the toes.
  • No twisting through the torso or in the hips and shoulders. This indicates that more core activation and control is needed for the movement. I suggest looking at this anti-rotation progression before taking on the crawls if you are twisting.
  • The ‘steps’ are small, about 3-4 inches separation from other hand/foot placement.
  • Push with toes to move forward, push through the hands to move backwards.
  • Knees stay one inch off the ground.

When your forward and backward bear crawls are looking good, try the lateral bear crawl.

All the same Important Things apply to the lateral bear crawl, now you are just walking sideways instead of forward and backward.

Happy Training,

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Be Well,
~Theresa
CPT, PN1, CFSC, FMS II, FRCms, FRA, Kinstretch, 200RYT



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