While I can’t promise you that the exercises I’ll share in this article will lead to a shredded-wheat belly, I can promise they are more effective for the functional adaptation of the core. After all, you can do situps until the cows come home, but sadly, spot training for the sake of losing fat in a particular area doesn’t work (this subject will be left for another article).
The True Purpose of the Core Muscles
The purpose of the core is to help you stabilize your midsection and connect your upper body to your lower body. The core is not limited to your 6 pack, though (the technical name for 6 pack is rectus abdominis). Also included in your core musculature are your obliques (muscles on the side of your abs), spinal stabilizers, glutes, and lats. Yup, all of these muscle groups help stabilize your midsection and connect the lower body to the upper body.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what muscles are really involved and what the core should be doing, here are some exercises that will help develop the system (and have a better chance of giving you that 6 pack as well):
The Suitcase Carry
While all of the carries in the carry family are important in their own right, the suitcase carry seems to help with overall core development at a higher level. Because of the contralateral weight distribution, your body has to stabilize from side-to-side. While holding the weight on the side, the opposite side oblique, glute, and lat have to really turn on to keep you from falling over. For most back-for-your-buck, use a decent size weight and move slowly with your walk. Reminder: pretend like you’re walking a tight rope. If you fall off, game over!
Yup, you read that right. This is an actual exercise and it will humble the strongest among us in a heartbeat. Again, the goal is to be methodical with your movement. The dead bug does not allow you to simply fly through it because it also requires some thought. Moving your opposite arm and leg independently of each other requires a crosslink connection in the brain that most of us don’t use on a regular basis. Give it a try and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Reminders: keep your head up and don’t move your other arm and leg!
The Ab Roller
Ab rollers have been around for years. They lost some traction at some point in the late 90s and early 00s, but are making a serious comeback as of late. The reason that this movement is effective is because of the on-off action your core requires while performing it. As you extend your arms out at the bottom of the roll, your core has to engage more and more. This is more real-life than something like a plank (which are awesome, don’t get me wrong) where you simply hold the position for an amount of time. If you do the ab roller correctly, it will “teach” our core to activate on demand so that it can stabilize when it needs to. Reminder: keep your glutes tight while in the extended position!
Start training your core to be useful, not just pretty. Ironically, the useful exercises are better at the 6 pack effect than situps and crunches. However, they require much more effort.
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