The base of all functional fitness movements is a strong core. When discussing the core, many people simply think of ab crunches or sit ups. There are two major flaws with this thinking.
- The core includes all muscles from the upper thigh to just below the nipples — INCLUDING your BACK MUSCLES.
- Static (laying on the ground) or single directional movements such as sit ups or crunches rarely mimic functional movements, especially the twisting motions commonly required in most sports.
It is import that your core day include both back and ab workouts, as well as dynamic (or multi-motion) workouts. Is it going to be more difficult? — YES. Will it take as much time or as many reps? — NO. If you do these correctly it will be difficult to hit the rep/set count I’ve provided. Perform to failure and get out of the gym.
The top 5 dynamic core workouts that I include in my workouts are listed below:
- Side-to-Side Sit Ups: These “sit ups” entail sitting rocked back on your butt with your knees lifted to a 90 degree angle to your body and your hands in a prayer position in front of your chest. From this position you turn your chest and core to the left and reach your hands down to touch the ground. Return to center and repeat to the right, always remaining in the same seated position. Repeat this motion for 20 times to each side. (Advanced: hold a 6-25 lb medicine ball while performing this exercise)
- Core Plate Turns: Standing, start with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and grab a free-weight weight plate (25lbs-45lbs) to hold like a steering wheel in front of one of your hips (with your arms extended). From the hip location and with your arms remaining straight move the plate in a motion to the opposite shoulder. Continue for 2×20 reps, and do the same for the other direction. Be sure to start with a light weight and work up when first starting to avoid shoulder injury.
- Hamstring Curl (Medicine Ball): These are brutal and effective. Laying on your back with your feet extended, position a medicine ball beneath your heels. From this position thrust your hips/pelvis to the sky while retracting the medicine ball to your butt (using your hamstring muscles to pull the ball towards you and your heels for downward pressure.) Perform to failure for 3 reps – Trust me, it’ll be less than you think.
- Planks (Flat and Side) with Leg Raise: These exercises likely engage more muscle groups at once than any of the other options. Positioned in a normal plank position (ab workout version, not the internet meme version), lift your straight right leg 10-12 inches from the floor. Return your right toe to the starting position and then raise the left leg in the same fashion. Perform 3 sets of 10 with both legs. Try to keep you ankle bent as much as possible during the movement to further engage your glutes. The same motion can also be done from the side plank position, but from here you are doing leg/hip raises…same sets and reps though.
- Side-to-Side Reverse Sit-Ups: I love/hate these sit-ups for my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu functional strength. I always notice a small performance increase in my game when I burn out on these a few days before sparring. Starting with your back on the floor and the bottom of your feet to the sky (in a laying “L” position), splay your arms palms down on the floor about 1.5 feet from your hip. Thrust your hips and feet into the air to raise your but off of the ground 5-7 inches. Upon returning to the ground bring your hips to the floor by one of your hands. Thrust back into the air and return to the ground by your other hand. Perform 3 sets of 30. They’re brutal if you’re doing them correctly (with your abs flexed throughout.)
You’re welcome, and I’m sorry all at the same time. Enjoy your next core day!