The Top Core Exercises For Athleticism, Strength, And Injury Prevention
What’s the first muscle group that comes to mind when you hear about the core?
Abs right? Or maybe the obliques?
And what’s the first exercise you think of when you hear about core training?
Like most, you probably think about movements like crunches, side bends, and leg raises.
The truth is, our core is much more nuanced than most people imagine, and training it effectively comes down to much more than doing a few sets of crunches or side bends.
What Is The Core, Anyway?
Contrary to popular belief, our abs - also known as rectus abdominis - are far from the only muscle group in the core. The entire central area of the body is what we call the core, which includes many muscle groups.
Specifically, aside from the rectus abdominis (six-pack), the core consists of:
- Transverse abdominis
- Internal and external obliques
- Lower back
- Hip and pelvic muscles
Some folks even argue that the chest and upper back should be considered part of the core, but there isn’t an agreement among experts on this idea.
Given the number of muscles in the core, one can’t simply crunch two-dimensionally and hope to develop all of these muscles.
It’s difficult to say what combination of exercises would train our core optimally, but it’s our job to try and figure it out.
With that in mind, let’s go over a handful of exercises that strengthen the entire core in numerous ways.
5 Of The Best Core Exercises You Should Be Doing
Deadlifts might seem like a back exercise, but their effects are much more profound. The deadlift is among the best core movements simply because it trains a large percentage of them. It also trains these muscles simultaneously and teaches them how to work together.
And, as an added benefit, you get to overload your core with a lot of weight, which strengthens it significantly.
The plank is a simple but incredibly versatile core exercise. Unlike the other movements on our list, it mostly emphasizes stability and forces you to engage your core to maintain your position.
The best part is, you can pick from many variations - simple or complex - depending on your athletic level.
- Overhead Carries
This movement is simply about lifting a weight over your head and walking with it. Though seemingly simple, this forces significant core activation because you need to work hard to keep yourself upright. Plus, your glutes also work incredibly hard to move you forward and stabilize your pelvis.
- Leg Raise With Hip Lift
Leg raises are by no means a bad movement, but many people find themselves overtraining their hip flexors instead of their abs. This variation has you lift your butt off the floor as your legs are raised, which engages your glutes, lower back, and abs much better.
- Dumbbell Torso Twists
We can’t have optimal core development without strong rotational ability, which is why movements like loaded torso twists work so well. Specifically, such exercises develop our internal and external obliques while emphasizing torso stability through rotation.
Incorporating Core Exercises
Personally I like to incorporate one core exercise at the end of every workout. I perform some light cardio on my off days and follow that with 2-3 core exercises as well. The important thing is to fit a variety of these exercises into your normal routine.
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