To describe in the easiest way what the core muscles are I want you to imagine that you’re wearing weight lifting belt or if you have one, just put it on. The muscles inside the belt are the core muscles.
It’s a complex of many muscles however the most important are:
- ABS – Transversus Abdominus, Rectus Abdominus,
- Oblique – Internal and External,
- Lower back muscles – Spinal Erectors, Multifidus and Quadratus Lumborum.
We can include the glutes and hip flexors as well. Main function of the core muscles is to stabilize the trunk, support the spine and maintain optimal alignment between the pelvis and the spine. They transfer power between upper and lower body. They are extremely important in weight lifting as well as in everyday life. If you have a weak core, you’re weak.
Core muscles work very hard during Squat, Deadlift and any type of standing overhead pressing. You’ll hear very often that you don’t need any direct core exercises, but I believe it’s a mistake. If you have weakness in any part of this area you won’t be able to lift as heavy weight as you could, you might feel discomfort doing any standing exercises or simply suffer from a back pain.
I would like to state that there is hundreds of different core exercises, however I’ll list the most basic and the most effective ones:
- Side Plank
To perform planks correctly you have to squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and tens your abs. Tilt your pelvis forward and hold this position as long as you can. In these exercises form is everything. They might look simple and easy but are really, really effective.
Another great, if not the best core exercise is Overhead Squat. Basically it’s a Squat with a barbell held above your head with a snatch-width grip (a bit wider than your shoulders). If you haven’t done this exercise before try it first with an empty barbell or even a broom-stick. Once you feel comfortable add some weight.
Exercises listed above are stability exercises, because that’s the main function of the core, however these muscles are also responsible for flexing, extending and rotating our trunk:
- Abdominals (flexion) – Weighted Sit-Ups/ Turkish Getups/ Leg Raises/ Kneeling Cable Crunches.
- Obliques and Quadratus Lumborum (side flexion and rotation) – Dumbbell Side Bends/ Side Plank Hip Raises/ Russian Twists/ Twisting Crunches.
- Lower Back muscles (extension) – Back Extensions/ Good Mornings/ Supermans/ Reverse Hyperextensions.
Example of simple workout for core muscles:
- Side Plank (left side) 3 x 30 seconds
- Side Plank (right side) 3 x 30 sec.
- Plank 3 x 30 sec.
You can do these exercises in a circuit – one after another without rest or just perform all sets for first two exercises (alternating sides) and then proceed to the next one – take 30 seconds rest between sets.
It’s a quiet easy workout but very effective. It can be done at home because we don’t need any special equipment or at the gym – before or after your training. Once you’ll get stronger, try to hold these positions for 45 sec. and then up to 1 minute.
Example of direct core workout for more advanced lifters:
- Overhead Squat 15/15/15
- Decline Situp 15/15/15
- Back Extensions 15/15/15
Again, you can do 3 circuits with 2 minutes rest between or all 3 sets one after another for each exercise with 1 minute rest between them.
Once you include direct core exercises in your routine and develop stronger muscles of midsection all your main lifts like Squat, Deadlift and Press will go up, you will feel stronger, have better posture and more injury-proof back.