Unconventional Core Training: Effective Exercises for Your Core
Core training is more than thousands of crunches and side bends. The other role of your stomach muscles is for stabilization of your spine. Your core muscles will contract to prevent any unwanted bending which will help prevent injury. Some of these exercises may be outside of the norm of your normal core training.
Use some of these exercises to add into your routine. You also get the added benefit of working multiple muscle groups. Needless to say, you won’t have to worry about doing any crunches.
1. Single arm dumb bell (DB) bench press
How to perform it: Lie down on your back, back of the head in contact with the bench and feet flat on the ground with feet slightly more than hip width apart. Grab one DB and hold it over your face with your free hand at your hip. Brace your abs like someone is about to punch you in the stomach and lower the weight to about 90 degrees. Exhale on the way up. Continue to focus on the contraction of your abs. The contraction of the abs will kick in when the weight gets closer to 90 degrees on the down and shortly after you begin the ascent.
Coaching tip: Keep that stomach braced and watch out that you don’t hyper-extend your lower back. If you are doing this by yourself and you need a spot, use your free hand to force some of the reps. Choose a weight that is challenging enough for you to do 2-3 sets, 12-20 reps or 3-6 sets, 6-12 reps if your focus is more on building muscle and strength.
* Keep your core tight as the weight lowers
2. Bent over DB row
How it trains the core: First off, let me say that I used to hate this exercise. I had a hard time feeling this where I needed to and my low back hurt. Now I love it and it’s a staple in my program because I am actually doing this right. How this trains your core is that your core should be tight enough that your spine stays flat. Your core is contracting to prevent any trunk rotation or back extension so that your focus can be only on the shoulder, elbow and scapula doing the movement.
How to perform it: Place your right hand and right knee on a flat bench. Your shoulder should be in line with your hand, knee in line with your hip. Your left leg should be on the ground while your left arm is free and resting at your side. There should be a straight line now from your head to your butt. Pick up a DB with your left hand and have your palm facing in. Keeping your elbow to your side and wrist stable, pull the weight straight up and squeeze the shoulder blade at the top of the movement. Keep your core tight throughout and make sure there is no rotation in the trunk. Keeping your core tight, slowly lower the weight back to the start but prevent the momentum from rotating your trunk as well.
Coaching tip: Use a mirror to make sure your spine and neck are in a neutral position. You are looking for a straight line from the head to the butt. Don’t look up; look down when performing your reps. As you are performing the reps, try not to shrug your shoulder on the way up. When you do, often times you will deactivate your back muscles and activate your upper trapezius. Keep core tight and shoulders square. Pull the weight up but don’t shrug as the weight lowers your shoulder.
3. BB Suitcase Deadlift
How it trains the core: First off, I received this exercise from so many names I don’t even know where to begin as to where I got the idea. But it is a great exercise all around. As you lift the barbell, your core is already contracting to make sure you don’t lean away from the weighted side.Â Keeping the stomach braced will prevent your trunk from leaning to one side thus training the obliques. There is also the added benefit of strengthening your grip, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders and arms.
How to do it: Position yourself next to the middle of the bar and the bar will be placed vertical. Lower your body in a squat like fashion: Bend at the hips and the knees on the descent and keep your back straight and core tight. Your inside hand will be grabbing onto the middle of the bar. With your position still strong (back straight, core embraced), drive straight up and push through your heels.
Coaching tip: Keep the bar straight throughout the exercise and keep your grip tight. It will prevent the bar from leaning from one side or the other. Use a mirror to help your from by making sure there isn’t any leaning of the trunk from one side or the other.
Photo Credit: flickr user the U.S army