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Six of the Best Core Exercises for Men and Women to Improve Athletic Performance

Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result

Apple Core with Measuring Tape around itDo you want stronger hips, a stable spine and powerful abdominals?

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning conducted a study which found that athletes who trained their core muscles ran quicker times in 5000 meter runs than those in the control group.

Athletes such as Mohamed Farah certainly know how important it is to exercise their core muscles, did you see him demonstrate the bicycle manoeuvre in his Gold 5000 meter win celebration at the London Olympics?

I have done a lot of research for you, into finding out what core exercises are more effective than others. To help you on your way with core strength training which can increase mobility, stability and your overall function, I have listed below what I believe are six of the best core exercises for men and women.

Just a quick educational on the functions of core muscles:

  • Hip muscles: keep your body upright, move your upper body forward and side to side.
  • Lower back muscles: keep your spine stable and let it move backwards as well as side to side.
  • Internal and external obliques: help your torso rotate from side to side and prevent it from rotating three hundred and sixty degrees (though it would be good to see who is walking behind you!).
  • Rectus abdominus: keeps your spine stable and pulls your torso forward towards your hips.
Lets start:

1. Hanging Leg Raise

Start Position:

a) Hold onto a chin up bar with an overhand, shoulder-wide grip.

b) Bend your knees slightly.

c) Keep your feet together.

Action:

a) Raise your knees and hips together and then your thighs towards your chest, curling your lower back.

b) Pause when your thighs reach your chest for two seconds.

c) Lower down slowly.

Super-tips:

a) Imagine that you are scooping up a swiss ball (or a giant snowball) with your hips and thighs and balancing it when you are in the pause position.

b) Just raise your knees to your hips, then when you feel strong enough, move your hips up too.

2. Extended Plank

Start Position:

a) Lie face down.

b) Put your hands in front of you.

Action:

a) Push your body up with your arms.

b) Move your hands six inches in front of your shoulders.

c) Hold your abs in for thirty seconds.

Super-tips:

a) Do not hold your breath which is easily done as you are holding in your abs.

b) Breathe deeply at a constant rate.

c) To make it tougher, move your hands out by another couple of inches.

d) To make it easier, bend your arms and rest on your forearms.

3. Barbell Rollout

Start Position:

a) Place a barbell with twelve pound plates on each side (make sure they are fixed).

b) Kneel on the floor and hold the barbell with an overhand grip.

c) Your hands should be shoulder width apart.

d) Make sure your shoulders are directly over the barbell.

Action:

a) Roll the bar out at a slow pace, pushing your body out as far as you can without causing discomfort.

b) Hold for two seconds.

c) Use your abs to pull the bar back.

Super-tips:      

a) Keep your abs, chest and glutes tight to get the most out of this exercise and to prevent your back from collapsing.

b) Keep your feet elevated throughout the exercise but if you need extra stability you can put them down.

4. Cable Core Press

Start Position:

a) Hold a handle on the pulley of a cable station.

b) Stand facing slightly to the right of the weights.

c) Move away from the weights so the cable is tight.

d) Hold the handle against your chest.

Action:                     

a) Push your hands out slowly in front of you.

b) Pause for two seconds.

c) Bring your hands back.

d) Repeat on the other side.

Super-tips:      

a) If your shoulders are rotating or you are finding that you are getting tugged back then reduce the weight stack.

b) Remember to keep your abs in and chest up.

c) Make sure the height of the cable is in align with your shoulders.

5.  Kneeling Stability Chop

Starting Position:

a) Use a rope handle at a cable station.

b) Kneel down so the left side of your body is facing the weights.

c)  Hold the rope with an overhand grip.

d)  Your hands should be around shoulder width apart.

e)  Both your arms should be pointing to the machine.

Action:

a) Pull the rope slowly past your hip.

b) Only move your shoulders and arms to pull the rope down.

c) The rope should move diagonally across your upper body.

d) Hold for two seconds.

e) Slowly move back to the start position.

f) Repeat on the other side.

Super-tips:      

a) Keep your torso static throughout the repetition.

b) Keep your arms straight throughout the exercise.

c) Hold your core in at all times.

d) Hold your glutes in at all times.

6. V-Up

Starting Position:

a) Lie on the floor facing upwards with both your legs straight.

b) Both of your arms should be facing up.

Action:

a) In one full movement move your arms over your shoulders and pull your legs up.

b) Hold for one second in the V-position.

c) Lower your upper and lower body back down, slowly.

Super-tips:

a) Keep your legs together and do not bend them.

b) Do not do this exercise if you have lower back problems.

c) Do not push your head forward.

d) Hold a medicine ball in your hands for extra resistance.

Aim for ten repetitions per exercise except for the extended plank. For this hold for up to thirty seconds. You can hold for shorter times (or until failure) up to a combination of thirty seconds, e.g. three planks for ten seconds each (do this only if you cannot manage the full thirty seconds).

Take small steps, even do one rep, then after a few sessions do two reps and so on.

Take a rest for thirty seconds after doing one set (ten reps) of each exercise and a sixty seconds break after the first circuit.

One complete circuit is when you have done one set of each exercise in a row.

Repeat the whole circuit again.

Do these workouts three times a week for four weeks.

Remember, even if you can only manage a few repetitions per exercise when you first start out you can build up your strength and technique over time to do ten or even more reps!

Recommended Reading:

¤ 15 Great Benefits of Strong Abs. This was my very first post on the site. I needed to tell you why you should do abdominal workouts and give you the motivation to workout when you are feeling low.

¤ Burn More Fat by Doing These Interval Training Workouts . It is proven that by doing interval training by running, cycling, rowing or cross-training you burn more calories in less time so I made up this programme for beginners.

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About the author

Adam Drinkwater

Adam Drinkwater MPharm (Hons) is a YMCA Certified Professional Gym Instructor, Pharmacist, Scottish Football Association Qualified soccer coach, specialising in goalkeeping. He has a keen interest in evidence based information and is a long-time player in the fitness industry. He holds many nutritionist certificates and has a Masters in Pharmacy.