Putting some effort into sculpting your midsection will bring you a lot more than a summer-ready six-pack. A strong midsection can improve your overall efficiency at the gym and increase the benefits from pounding all that iron around while a weak core will limit the amount of weight you can lift and put you at risk of back injury.
Your core, i.e. your glutes, hips, abs and pelvic floor, is the central place where your power to perform any complex movement is generated. You can forget about the crunches – they will neither strengthen your core nor help you define your abs. They simply don’t work your abs in the way they were designed to perform and put too much stress on the discs of your spine.
In order to work your core more effectively, you need to give equal attention to all the muscles involved in this group and develop them to work as a team. How? Try these excellent simple exercises to really strengthen and stabilize your core and bring your performance to its maximum:
1. Floor bridge hold
Lie on your back on the ground and bend the knees. Slowly lift your pelvis up, while keeping the back straight, until your torso and thighs form a straight line. You should feel a decent tension in the glutes and abs. Hold the position for 90-120 seconds, then slowly lower the pelvis down. Perform 5 sets.
2. Russian twist
Lie down on the floor with bent knees, holding a light weight plate with the hands. Lift your upper body, balancing the torso on the tailbones and create a “V” shape with the thighs. Fully extend the arms in front of you (they should be parallel to the ground), then twist the torso and move the plate to the right side while breathing out.
Remember, the torso should be the only part of the body to move while the glutes and legs are firmly planted on the ground. Return to the central position and twist on the other side. Perform 3 sets with 20-25 reps on each side, without pausing between reps.
Performing this exercise regularly improves the connection between the upper and lower body, which in turn contributes to a stronger core. Start by standing with feet at shoulder width apart and holding a weight plate with both hands.
Slowly move the plate up over one shoulder with arms fully extended, then lower it diagonally until it’s outside the opposite knee, bending and twisting at the waist but keeping the back straight. Return to the starting position by reversing the movement in a controlled manner. Perform 3 sets with 12-15 reps on each side.
This is a difficult exercise that requires a high level of shoulder and arm strength to sustain the hold and strong abs to keep the legs parallel to the ground, but it’s incredible at building greater core strength. If you can’t do it at first, don’t give up and instead give yourself some time to practice and increase the strength of your arms.
It can be performed on a pull-up bar or high-bar. While hanging, lift your legs up until they become parallel with the floor, keeping the knees extended. Hold as long as possible. If this proves to be too difficult, keep the knees bent instead of fully extended. Perform 4 sets with as many reps as you can.