When I ask my clients to do core training it requires them to look beyond abs and see a system of muscles that work together to complete almost all the physical movements you make. For this reason I've put together what I feel are not only the best, but the most eye-opening core exercises. Adding these to your workouts will not only help you get better results, but will also help you realize more about your body. The mere act of trying these exercises can exploit weakness that you may have.
Single Arm Single Leg Row
You may be familiar with squats and rows; however, I rarely see this unique combination of the two. You can use a cable system or a band for this exercise so it's easy to do at home or at the gym. Plant one foot firmly on the ground. Grab your resistance band firmly then lift the leg on the same side until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Squeeze your core as tight as possible. Then sink (think half squat) on the planted leg as you reach and fully extend your arm. Then press through the floor with the working foot and pull the band back in unison while lifting your leg. Finish with your chest pushed out, the band pulled back fully, your leg high, and perfect posture.
Single Leg Medicine Ball Chop
I've found balancing on one leg while moving resistance through patterns is very effective in making people activate their core. It becomes evident that you'll be unable to maintain balance without correct core engagement. Again, plant one foot firmly and raise the other leg to a thigh parallel position. Extend your arms fully! This is important because you want to keep the weight of the ball as far away from your torso as possible in order to really challenge yourself. Then move the ball through a chopping pattern across your body. Think chopping wood. It's key to think about resisting the urge to rotate. That's where your core activation comes from. Resistance!
High Plank Knees to Elbow
A plank can be taken to the next level easily when you add a dynamic movement. Traditionally speaking, a plank is done on your elbows.This core exercise takes that to the next level. Place yourself in a push-up position. Keep your spine neutral. Don't flex at the spine, and don't sag at your lower back either. While engaging your core and maintaining the neutral spine position actively move your right knee toward your right elbow and then follow that pattern with your left side. If you can accomplish that with perfect form, take it up a notch. Try to reach opposite knees to opposite elbows. This not only challenges your stability, but will add a slight rotational component to the exercise.
Supine Hip Extensions
Here's an exercise that will not only fire your core, but activate your hip flexors as well. Lie on your back. Take a small moderately tight resistance band and wrap it around one knee and both feet. Then very carefully extend the leg that doesn't have the band attached to the knee. The key here is to think about simultaneously pushing and pulling. In order to fully activate and keep the stable leg in place you'll want to think about pulling the stable knee to the chest. Don't over-pull because that's not the point of the exercise, and the band can come loose and hit you.
The stability ball is under-utilized. You don't always have to sit or lay on it for exercises. It's not heavy but the size and elasticity of the ball allow for many variations of focused core exercises.
Lay on your back. Squeeze the swiss ball between your arm and your leg on one side of your body. Then simply raise your opposite arm and leg until they touch the ball. Think about keeping your hips as stable as possible through the movement. To make this even harder you can add light ankle weights.
Try adding these in the next time you workout. Even if you aren't planning on a core specific routine you can still use these exercises as a warm-up. Let me know what you think of these movements and if you have any questions by adding a comment below.