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All You Need to Know about the Core: Advanced Training (Part 4 of 4)

26 Jul 2012
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Core

Once you’ve mastered the drawing in maneuver, plank hold, and bridges, you should be ready for more challenging core exercises.

You may have noticed from the previous post that even the most basic core exercises may also strengthen other muscle groups. For example, the bridge is both a foundation core exercise and a hamstring & back strengthener for beginners.

As you progress into more advanced core exercises, you’ll also feel these exercises work more than just your anchor muscles. And the further along you progress with your core training, some of the basic moves will feel like exercises you can perform as part of your warm-up.

These are my picks for advanced core training. They’re all exercises you can include in your training for any sport or activity, especially obstacle racing. You can integrate these exercises into the “work” bout of your training session. As you master some of these — like the basic push-up, lunge, and squat — you can include them as part of your warm-up before a strength training workout.

1. Push-Up

While the push-up is often used as a chest, shoulder, and arm strengthener, it’s also a great advanced core exercise. To do it right, you have to engage the core!

The push-up will help you strengthen the muscles you’ll need to call-upon to crawl under barriers or through tunnels and carry heavy objects over your shoulder during an obstacle race.

Description:
(Start) Assume a straight-arm plank position with your core engaged.
(Move) Bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground. Be sure to keep your back straight. Go as low as you can, but make sure you can get back up! Return to start.

Variation: Push-Up with Rotations/T-Stabilizations

Once you can master the basic push-up, a great progression would be the push-up with rotation/t-stabilization.

Description:
(Start) Assume a straight-arm plank position with your core engaged.
(Move 1) Bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground. Be sure to keep your back straight. Go as low as you can.
(Move 2) As you return to start and straighten out your arms, lift your right arm and twist your torso so that your body forms a “T.” Hold for one second. Return to start.

Push-Up with Rotation 1

Push Up with Rotation 2

2. Plank Variations

The plank is more than just a foundation core exercise. There are many ways to tweak the basic plank to ensure you are challenging yourself and training your core for sport.

This variation will engage your core while improving hip flexibility and mobility.

Planks with Knee-to-Elbow Tucks

Description:
(Start) Assume a bent-elbow plank position. Keep your core engaged and back straight.
(Move) Tuck your right knee in towards your right elbow. Hold for one second. Straighten out your right leg to return to start position and repeat with your left leg. Return to start position in a plank with your hips down.

3. Stability Ball Bridge Variations

Although you may not see stability ball bridges and related variations in most obstacle race training programs, these exercises are great for runners.

Stability Ball Bridge with Curl

Stability ball bridges with curls will build your core, hamstrings, and back.

Description:
(Start) Lie down with your back on the mat with your heels and calves on a stability ball. Squeeze your abs and lift your hips off the mat.
(Move) While squeezing your abs, lift your hips some more and bend your knees so that you tuck the ball in towards your glutes. Hold for one second. Return to start.

Stability Ball Bridge with Curl 1

Stability Ball Bridge with Curl 2

4. Lunges and Variations

The lunge is both a core and leg strengthening exercise. Lunges can also be a great dynamic flexibility move you can include as part of your warm-up.

Description:
(Start) Stand tall with core engaged and feet hip-width apart.
(Move) Take a big step forward with your right leg and lower your lower body towards the floor until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Return to start and switch legs. As this exercise gets easier, hold dumbbells at by your side (hang carry).

Variation: Lunges with Twists

Description:
(Start) Stand tall with core engaged and feet hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head with elbows out.
(Move) Take a big step forward with your right leg and lower your lower body towards the floor until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Twist your torso so that you are facing the right. Return to start and switch legs.

5. Bodyweight Squats

Like the lunge, the squat is also a leg strengthening exercises. To perform with good form, you’ll need to engage the core.

Description:
(Start) Stand tall with core engaged and feet hip-width apart. Place hands behind your head.
(Move) Maintain back straight as you bend your knees and hips to lower your glutes towards the floor. Try not to go lower than your thighs parallel to the floor. Pause and return to start.

Variation: Single Leg Squats
The Single leg squat will improve your leg strength, balance, and core. This is a great exercise for running, both as part of a warm-up and integrated into your workout.

Description:
(Start) Balance on your right leg with your left leg off the floor. Be sure to squeeze your abs and glutes (engage the core) to keep your balance.
(Move) Bend your right knee and lower your glutes towards the ground. Try to keep your left leg parallel to your right without touching the floor. Try to bend your knee and drop your glutes as much as you can without losing your balance.

Looking Ahead: Putting it All Together

So now that you have a good idea of core strengthening exercises, how do you put it altogether?

Next week, we’ll look at a few different warm-up and workout sequences you can try to train your core.

 

 

Series Navigation<< All You Need to Know about the Core: Putting it All Together (Part 3 of 4)
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