Let me just start this off by saying the core of an apple is a foundation. Without the foundation the rest of the apple will surely collapse in on itself , or look unappealing or mushy..Point being without a foundation (read: Core) the surrounding structure will either;
1) Look for an alternative source of stability to stand freely.
B) Break down.
Either way the outcome is not ideal for your health and body. You see option 1 results in you using other muscles to compensate for the non-functioning muscles and well, option B is self explanatory.
The alternative however is to build up your core.. midsection..whatever.
The core you see goes from just below your nipples to your pelvic floor (arguably higher and lower if you take into consideration all of the origins, insertions and muscles acting on the trunk – both directly and indirectly). If you have a strong core, you not only will look and feel better but you will be stronger!
The most simple way of looking at your core is anterior (front) and posterior (back). The best way to go about strengthening these ‘sections’, is exercises that categorize themselves, in my book, as anti-extension and anti-rotation.
A perfect example of an anti-extension exercise is a plank. In a plank you are resisting the urge for your belly button to collapse onto the ground forcing your spine into extension (read: bending backwards). Another one of the staples of my programming is an exercise called ‘Tall Kneeling Stability Ball (SB) Rollout’.
This is the first phase of the exercise progression. First, learn how to do this on your knees! As a general cue keep your shoulders in line with your knees and let your hips ‘fall’ forward as you lean forward and roll the ball out. If you feel this in your back you have gone too far for your core to handle. Next rep, try going down and not reaching out as far. This should get rid of the feeling in your back. The concept here is to feel it in the deep anterior portion of your midsection an NOT your lower back!!
The simple reason for being on your knees is it takes away a joint and makes the lever arm shorter. By making the lever arm shorter you are decreasing the resistance or amount of work you have to do to maintain the proper posture.
The progression to the ‘Tall Kneeling SB Rollout’ is quite obviously the ‘Standing SB Rollout’.
An anti rotation exercise, and one of my favorites might I add is the cable ‘Standing Anti-Rotation’ exercise:
Just as the concept I explained above with the SB Rollout progressions the anti-rotation exercises will follow the same protcol. First ‘Tall Kneeling Anti-rotation’ and then ‘Standing Anti-rotation’.
Another very challenging exercise that I frequently use is the ‘Standing Anti-rotation/Extension’
Just so were not leaving out the glutes (an essential part of the posterior core), here’s a video of a hiplift I did with coach Sam Laehey when I interned at Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning in Boston, MA. If you’re not doing these before your lower body workouts, or during any and every workout, you’re missing out big time on the benefits of using your butt to make you look better and move better!
All this being said, there is one simple thing linking your upper body to your lower body (if you haven’t caught on by now) it’s your core!
Surprisingly enough,to increase your squat, deadlift, chin-ups, bench press and ultimately get really damn strong -you’re going to need get a solid core!
You can use the exercises and progressions shown above to start your journey into the wonderful world of a new and better you!