When people think of the core, they think of the abs but it is so much more than that. Many people consider the core to consist of anything between the nipple and the knees. Either way, I asked some of the best strength coaches what their favorite core exercise is. Let’s see what they say!
I’m a big fan of the basics, and I really love anti-movements, particularly those which require the ability to resist extension. There are plenty of ways to train anti-extension, but my absolute favourite is the basic ab wheel rollout. It’s tough, it’s demanding, and it works. If you can bang out 10-15 of them without losing tension and falling in to lumbar extension, you’re pretty damn strong!
As a strength coach and personal trainer working with both general population and athletes I jumped at the opportunity to help Mitch out with this article. My go to core move for both populations is “stir the pot”. I can not think of a better bang for your buck move. Gives you the benefits of a plank (although much more difficult!); with the addition of scapular control. Everyone needs a little more scapula control in there life, so what more can you ask for.
In order to perform this beast all you need is a stability ball and some sweat equity.
Assume a plank position on the ball; ribs down, hips up and brace your core. Set your feet in a comfortable position for your ability. Remember that the wider your base is the easier it becomes, more narrow base adds a level of difficulty. Make sure to maintain a neutral neck and keep your butt out of the air. Then you are going to draw circles with your elbow on the ball, the smaller the circles the easier – larger the circles the harder. Just that simple, yet amazing training effect.
I typically start out with 10 circles each way and then add volume or adjust feet accordingly.
More often than not the best way to do things is the simplest way. Do the simple things right and progress will follow.
Picking a favorite core exercise is tough.. The “core” is a very broad term to describe a lot of different muscles but if I had to pick one it would be a Palloff press. While there are many different variations of the Palloff press, my favorite is the basic press.
Start with a band or cable attachment in both hands at the chest standing perpendicular to the band/cable. Press the band or cable out from your chest slowly until the arms are fully extended. Once your arms are extending pause for a one count then reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
I love Palloff variations because often times clients that I work with have very little training in anti-rotation and have only done flexion based core exercises. This is a surefire way to improve trunk stability and strength in both athletes and the general population.
My favorite core exercise is, without a doubt, the ab wheel rollout. It’s accessible, functional, scalable, and- most importantly- hard as hell. Ab wheel rollouts strengthen upper and lower abs, obliques, lower back, and even the lats. All you need is a $7 ab wheel from your local sporting goods store and you’re in business.
To begin, simply drop to your knees, extend your arms out in front of you, and bring them back in. Keep your hips quiet, glutes squeezed, and core tight throughout the movement. In the start/finish position, your back should be rounded like a scared cat. Once you can knock out 20 of these from your knees consistently, it’s time to either stand up or add a band.
Inspired by the @ironvalleybarbell boys @ianasherfitness and @schober22 to get off my knees this morning ha. If you're consistently knocking out 20+ reps per set on the ab wheel, then it's time to step it up. Here are a few ways to make this (already tough) movement even tougher: ▪Pause for 3-5 seconds at full extension ▪Add weight (weighted vest or plate on your back) ▪Stand up – @erod822 @jakedworkis @sharperthnu5 and anyone who is #abbingnightly what you got???
This Band-Resisted Ab Wheel is just as brutal is at looks. ▪️Wrap the middle of a light band around a fixed object, and wrap either end around the handles of the ab wheel. ▪️Set up far enough away so that there's plenty of tension on the band. ▪️Let the band pull the ab wheel out, but make that eccentric as slow as possible (5+ seconds). ▪️Fully extend, and then explode back to your original position. – This will absolutely light up your core! I challenge all my nightly abbers and homies with brick abs to try this variation!
Every time I participate in one of these “favorites” articles, I have a mini panic attack. I sit down at my computer and ponder the vast number of exercises and variations I could choose.
For this one, I automatically defaulted to deadbugs and Pallof presses because of their great impact on both physical well being and performance. But then I thought about the endless amount of ridiculous things I could do with a trap bar, but what right minded coach would do let a client do circus tricks on a trap bar?
While the deadbug and Pallof Press are my most USED core exercises, my actual favorite is the isometric front squat hold. Why? Well it’s just badass.
First off, it’s super easy to teach; get the bar in a front rack and stand there (both clean grip and cross face work, but I prefer straps over cross face). Squeeze your butt and your abs and hold on tight. Not only will you feel this in your abs, but in your glutes, upper back and lats. Ensure that you’re fighting to keep your elbows up with good posture! Holding your breath will make it way easier, but you should try and take measured and controlled breaths during this.
The second, and main, reason why I love this exercise, is because you can use a shitfuckton of weight when you do it. Since it’s an isometric and a partial range of motion rep, you can use supramaximal loading. Depending on the person, I often start them with 115% of their best back squat for 15-25 seconds per set. You can then personalize either the load or the duration of the lift depending how they react to it.
Trying to choose my favorite core exercise is like Bubba from Forrest Gump trying to decide the best way to cook shrimp. There is no right or wrong answer, it’s all amazing.
We don’t need to discuss the massive importance of the core, right? You guys already know how vital your trunk is to develop force, transfer force, protect your spine and all that good stuff.
Having a weak core that functions less-than-optimal can cause problems that are way deeper than not having a six pack. Injuries, compensation, faulty patterns and other issues can stem from a dysfunctional midsection, but luckily there are several ways to avoid those complications.
My personal favorite, today at least, is a banded leg lowering. You lie supine on the ground with a hand anchored overhead and behind you.
Pull the band down to your sides with lats engaged and a neutral spine. Both legs will start in the air. Inhale a diaphragmatic breath through your nose, then lower one leg slowly as you exhale fully. Stop the heel an inch or two from the ground. Repeat on both sides for equal reps.
This is a great breathing exercise that develops core strength, control and stability. It also can reduce excessive tone in the hips and low back, which can free you from achy joints and low back pain. It’s a simple bang for your buck exercise that you can use in your programming!
As most of the other coaches have said, there are so many choices when it comes to choosing a core exercise but my favorite has to be the band-resisted deadbug.
I like this exercise for two reasons, it trains the ever important anterior core correctly. But most importantly it helps reinforce proper positioning of the “cylinder” or the interaction between your rib cage and your pelvis.
The band resistances helps to cue you to activate your “abs”, helping to pull down the ribs and creating a more stable trunk. Adding in the alternating movement of the legs just adds more challenge to the exercise.
Want to make it easier? Bend your knees and just tap your heels. Want to make it harder? Increase the band tension or increase the time under tension as you move your legs.