January 13, 2017

Best Core Exercises (NO Crunching!)

This core stabilization routine is great for everyone because it helps support activities of daily living (getting groceries, picking something up from the ground, carrying a child,  shoveling, yard work, etc). If nothing else, these exercises alone can help keep you from getting injured, if done on a regular basis (2-3x per week). Those that fit into these categories, will also drastically benefit from these exercises:

  1. Hurt your back or frequent back problems
  2. Been pregnant (not if you are currently pregnant)
  3. Do heavy lifting
  4. Do repetitive lifting or movements
  5. Play sports

Let’s clarify a few facts on “core” training, so you can understand what these exercises do for you.

What IS the “core”?

The core is often thought of as just the abdominals, but it’s actually comprised to so much more! The core refers to your entire trunk, which means mostly everything that isn’t your arms and legs. Muscles that work in unison to comprise the core include:

  • Glutes (butt)
  • Hips
  • Inner and outer abdominals
  • Pelvic floor
  • Scapula


What does it DO?

The main “job” of the core is to support the spine. It:

  • Allows us to bend in multi directions, twist and balance. Even walking requires an interplay of many muscles working together.
  • Stabilizes the top part of the body over the bottom part
  • Positions your pelvis
  • Contains and protects your organs



What is the best way to STRENGTHEN it?

Well let’s just cut to the chase and say that crunching and sit ups are NOT the best exercises for increasing functional strength OR creating definition. Contrast to popular belief, the crunching movement is a secondary function of the core. It’s primary action is stabilizing! Doing a whole lot of crunches (or repeated spinal flexion exercises like a crunch or sit up) can actually cause more harm than good because it puts stress on the discs of your spine.

To answer this question simply, any exercise that requires you to hold your abdominals in tight to resist movement will be an effective and safe way to train your core. Exercises that also require you to engage your hips to hold sturdy (kneeling on one knee, using a split stance while standing and moving your upper body, or balancing on leg or on a bosu) are also an excellent choices. Isometric, yoga and pilates exercises are always a good idea.

Here is a video of a few exercises I particularly like.

Here is the list of exercises I demonstrated. I suggest keeping the reps around 10 for beginners, 15 for intermediate or 20 for expert. All of these exercises should be done at a slowish pace, really working on feeling and engaging the core. I suggest sets of 1, 2 or 3.

  1. Isometric press. Stand farther away to make harder.
  2. Dead bug
  3. Kneeling band chops or rotations (but really it’s anti-rotation from your waist). Kneel farther away to make harder.
  4. Plank tap outs. Just hold a plank for modified.
  5. Superman hold or alternating limbs for modified
  6. Boat pose. Hold for 30-60 sec



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