5 exercises for a strong core

Challenge your idea of what is core training and learn the five most powerful exercises for a strong core

The word ‘core’ is the new style statement. It is not uncommon to hear people talking about core workouts, in most cases without even knowing what it means. To understand this, you have to go into the core of core training.

The fitness world is filled with many myths and fallacies as to what core actually means. Some say that the abdominals and the obliques form the core, while others add the lower back to the definition of core, and still others include even the hip.

Core is your entire torso minus the arms and the legs. The term core was first coined in 1982 by Gadja and Dominique in the book Total Body Training.

Core mainly consists of…

  1. Rectus abdominis
  2. Internal/external obliques
  3. Transverse abdominis
  4. Pelvic floor muscles
  5. Erector spinae muscles
  6. Diaphragm
  7. Latissimus dorsi [back]
  8. Gluteus maximus [hips]
  9. Trapezius

The biggest myth prevalent in the entire fitness industry is that you can strengthen the core by sit ups and crunches. These exercises only work out the rectus abdominis muscle and nothing else. Doing sit ups and crunches will never get you a sharp set of six packs. On the other hand, they are the best way to injure your back and ruin your posture.

The words functional and core are synonymous with each other. Functional training is nothing but exercises done to enhance the normal working strength of your daily movements and minimise injuries. E.g. lifting a bucket of water or a small child, pushing a car etc. Functional exercises work out numerous muscles at a time and address multiple components of fitness like muscular strength, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance, coordination, balance and flexibility, apart from engaging the entire core.

Strengthening the core means increasing the ability of the core to remain in equilibrium by controlling the forces that the other extremities [legs and arms] can create.

A weak core means poor posture and increased chances of injury, apart from other issues. Have you seen people with protruding bellies tilting backwards or old people bending forward as they age? It is all because of weak core muscles.

These are the top five exercises for strengthening the core and can be done by men and women of all ages. [For images of the exercises, check out the slider at the beginning of this article].

  1. Barbell squats – Known as the mother of all exercises, the good old barbell squats target over 100 muscles at a time. If you want six packs, bigger chest, ripped physique, do your squats. Don’t go fully down, but parallel to the ground. At the bottom give a good stretch to your hips [glutes] and rise up.
  2. Barbell deadlifts – Together with barbell squats, deadlifts form the most functional exercise you can ever do. While doing deadlift, do not sit in a squat position but take your hips back and lift the dead weight from the ground.
  3. One arm dumbbell row without support – While doing a dumbbell row without a bench support, just like the briefcase squat, the stabilisers and the core are working extra hard to balance the body to get the correct movement.
  4. Farmer’s walk – This is a strongman exercise, which involves simple walking for a long distance holding two heavy dumbbells/kettlebells. It extensively challenges the core and the grip of your hand.
  5. Briefcase squat – Just like a normal dumbbell squat, in this exercise you hold the dumbbell only in one hand, while the other hand remains empty. Go fully down as in a squat. During this movement the stabilisers and the core have to work extra hard to balance one half of the body.

This was first published in the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Akshay Chopra
Akshay is one of the most qualified and experienced health, fitness and nutrition consultants in the field. An athlete, coach, nutritionist, author and over all a defence forces officer and a former pilot - all rolled in one. A transformation expert, he is known for taking over those cases which most professionals have given up. He is the co-founder and Fitness Chief of one of the most research based gyms in the country "Body Mechanics" and just launched the Human Design School.

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