Any serious gym-goer or bodybuilder recognizes that working their core is the most important part of any workout routine. Core exercises are extremely beneficial for your whole body, improving your balance, increasing stability and enabling you to easily perform any type of physical activity. Core exercises enable you to reach your fitness goals and stay in shape at all times.
Nevertheless, by simply performing leg raises, crunches, or by eating right, you’ll never be able to get the core of your dreams. Working your core requires more advanced combinations of exercises that you can perform anywhere, both at the gym or from the comfort of your home.
Without further ado, let’s discover together 3 powerful and effective ways to work your core and leverage all the health benefits of an amazing core and gorgeous abs.
Focus on Anti-Extension Movements
Most people believe that core muscles involve just the abdominal muscles. However, the core has numerous muscles, including the obliques, hip flexors, and glutes. According to fitness expert Stuart McGill, people should focus less on leg raises & crunches and more on anti-extension movements. This is key if you want to enjoy a strong core and a healthy low-back.
Anti-extension movements enable you to train abdominals while also improving the strength of your muscles and their appeal. Probably the best anti-extension movement exercise you can practice today is the rollout. You can choose from two types of rollout exercises:
1. Stability ball rollouts: this unique exercise is specially designed to target the core muscles of the body, including the obliques, rectus abdomini and erector spinae. Additionally, it targets the shoulder muscles and latissimus dorsi (the upper back muscles). This unique exercise is similar to a plank, but you use a large ball instead of a mat. Because the ball adds a new element of stability into the mix, your muscles are required to work harder in order to enable you to maintain your stability.
To perform this exercise, start by kneeling down on the floor, put your hands in a loose fist and then rest your arms and your forearms on the ball. Bent the elbows at 90 degrees and then roll the ball forward, while the rest of your body straightens out. Extend as much as possible until your chest touches the ball and then reverse.
This exercise is extremely effective at reducing back pain, increasing your flexion, improving posture and strengthening your core.
2. Wheel rollouts: all you need to do in order to practice this exercise is a $10 wheel. Note that this type of anti-extension movement is slightly more complex and requires more strength from you. You can also challenge your core even more by moving the wheel in certain directions and by spending more time without moving.
Start with the stability ball rollouts and work your way up to the ab wheel rollout. If you just go straight to the ab wheel your core may not be strong enough for it and you may also feel soreness like you have never felt the next day. Trust me, the ab wheel is no joke.
Related: Top 40 Ab Exercises Ranked
Get to Next Level Planks
If you want to boost your stability and make the most out of core exercises, you want to plank as much as possible. However, you can’t just do planks by ear. You want to do them the right way. There are two types of planks you can try:
1. ABC ball plank: this unique type of plank can certainly take your core routine to the next level. All you need to do is to place your forearms on a stability ball, getting into a plank position. Start with slow and small movements with your arms as if you were drawing the ABC’s with them. Ensure that only your arms are moving and that your spine and feet are perfectly still.
Leading researchers from Canada found out that this type of exercise is one of the best when it comes to activating your deep core stabilizer muscles.
2. Side plank row: a rolling side plank is the perfect way to engage your obliques. This movement also targets transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. To perform it correctly, start in a plank position, then simply rotate your torso to one side, roll onto just one forearm and stack one leg upon the other. Hold for just one second and then switch to the other side.
To fully benefit from this exercise, make sure that you keep your spine straighten at all times. To increase difficulty, you can add a cable or a band that increases the anti-rotary effect.
Leverage Loaded Carries
In the last couple of years, loaded carries, also known as farmers’ carries, have gone mainstream. Millions of people from all over the globe are using this method to work their core and improve their abdominal muscles. Seems like everyone, from CrossFitters to bodybuilders and even professional weightlifters, have started to leverage the benefits offered by loaded carries.
In simple terms, using loaded carries involves picking up a heavy weight and walking with it for a certain period of time. The objects you can use for this can be anything, from kettlebells and dumbbells to sandbags or even buckets filled with rocks.
The benefits of loaded carries are many. First, this exercise increases your work resistance and enables you to boost your strength. As a direct result, you’ll be able to work quickly and have more endurance for any physical work. Second, you’ll be able to improve your grip strength and grow your muscle mass.
Loaded carries are one of the best exercises you can perform to work your core and get those amazing abs. While there are many variations of this exercise that you can perform, you should not stick with just a few. You should try all of them and see whichever suits you best. For example, you can choose from the traditional farmers carry, which involves carrying one object in each hand by your side, unilateral carries (just one weight at a time), suitcase carry (one arm at your side), waiter carry (one arm on your head) and rack carry (one hand on your chest).
You can perform a circuit and use all of these methods. However, when performing a circuit, you want to ensure that you rest as little as possible and switch between different positions. Additionally, you also want to ensure that you perform this circuit on its own at least twice a week.
The Bottom Line
With these in mind, you are now ready to work your core and take your strength to the next level. Leverage these 3 powerful and effective exercises and start working your core like never before.
Ryan is a former college wrestler and lifelong fitness fanatic. He has run half marathons, done mud runs, placed in body transformation contests, coached wrestling and now coaches girls soccer. Not to mention he has also tried literally hundreds of supplements over the years and has a vast and thorough supplement knowledge. He has written for Muscle & Strength, Testosterone Junkie, The Sport Review and other publications. He is also the editor in chief of this website. Feel free connect with him on his LinkedIn page below.