Exercises that attempt to isolate individual muscles are largely a waste of time; you need to challenge all the muscles. Trying to develop a rippling six pack by completing hundreds of crunches everyday will not help you to develop a strong core. These four simple but effective exercises will improve your core stability and develop your ability to resist rotation in just four weeks. Complete each of the four moves three times a week.
Illustrations: Marco Crisari
1 POINT STABILISATION
This series of stabilisation exercises will result in far more recruitment of the core musculature than more traditional exercises like sit ups.
Point 1 - Plank
Basic Plank Position
The Plank is a static exercise for strengthening the abdominals, back and shoulders.
Position yourself on your elbows and toes (elbows under your shoulders). Keep your ankle, hips and shoulders in line. Maintain your back, head and body in a neutral position – think about squeezing your glutes together, tightening your abdominal muscles and pushing your chest away from the floor. This is a static position – so you don’t move! Hold for 30-90 seconds.
Bonus If you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise then simply make yourself a little more unstable by removing one of your contact points. From the standard position try lifting one foot off the ground (approx 15cm) – the key is to maintain a stable position without tilting left or right. You can then take it up another notch and 'march', alternating feet in a slow and controlled manner.
Once you have mastered these two progressions keep your feet on the floor (a little wider now) and try to extend one arm out in front of you while maintaining a stable position. Just like the feet, progress by alternating right and left arms. If you are feeling really clever then remove two points of contact by lifting up a foot and extending the opposite arm out in front of you while trying to keep your hips flat.
Point 2 - Supine Bridge
This is a very simple exercise which will target your glutes and hamstrings.
Lie flat on your back on the ground. Bend you knees to approximately 45 degrees and place your heels on the floor. Place your arms out on the floor to your side (palms facing up). Contract your glutes and hamstrings and raise your hips until they are fully extended. Hold the top position for between 30-90 seconds.
Bonus If you want to make this exercise more difficult reduce your base of support by bringing your arms in and crossing them over your chest.
Point 3 - Side Hold (right)
Start by lying on your side, legs straight, feet stacked on top of each other. Support yourself on your elbow, keeping it in line below the shoulder, and place your free hand on your hip. Balance on the sides of your feet (feet are stacked) – squeeze your glutes and tighten up through your stomach. Don’t allow your hips to drop towards the ground. This is a static position – so you don’t move! Hold for 30-90 seconds.
Bonus Here’s a way to add some variety to this exercise: Rest on the elbow and knees (easier). Stagger your feet forward and back to add stability (easier). Stack the feet on top of each other and then lift the top foot off the bottom foot so that you are holding it a few inches up in the air (harder). Place your hand on the ground and extend your arm so that it is straight and you are holding your side at arms length (harder).
Point 4 - Side Hold (left)
Follow the instructions for point 3.
2 QUADRUPED HIP EXTENSION
This is a simple exercise that is often overlooked as simply being a rehabilitation exercise. It will teach you how to recruit the glutes and hamstrings while maintaining a stable torso.
Many runners have gluteal amnesia – their bum has forgotten what it is supposed to do and kind of just sits there doing very little – not particularly useful when you consider that strong glutes and hamstrings will help your running performance. Here’s how to do it:
Adopt a four-point kneeling position (on all fours) maintaining a flat back position.
Extend the right hip and knee and hold for a count of five before alternating sides. Avoid any movement through the lower back.
|Four-point Kneeling Position
||Hip and Knee Extension
Start with five reps on each side and work up to 15 reps on each side, remembering to hold the end position for five seconds. Quality of movement is very important, more so than quantity, so when your technique breaks down stop and rest.
||With Arm Extension
You can take the same basic exercise and target your glutes by simply extending the leg with the knee bent.
BONUS If you want to increase the difficulty then just extend the opposite arm at the same time to shoulder height.
Basic Plank Position
3 PLANK WALK-UPS
This is a great variation on the humble plank and adds a bit of movement forcing you to work hard to maintain stability throughout your body.
If you want to really nail this exercise avoid a 'rolling' motion around your torso during the walk-ups.
Start in a standard plank position as described earlier.
Walk your body up to a push-up position.
Pause for a count of one at the top before lowering back to the starting position – hold that position for a count of one as well. Continue for 30 seconds.
Side Plank Position
Basic Plank Position
4 SIDE BRIDGE AND REACH
This exercise is really tough. The most important thing is to extend as far as possible during the reach phase while keeping your feet and arm in contact
with the floor.
Start in a side hold position. Stretch your top arm up in the air and take some time to stabilise yourself. Now here comes the tricky bit.
Reach down in front and then underneath your body as if you are trying to pick up some money off the floor behind you. Your shoulders should twist and be parallel with the floor as you look back towards your fingers as they reach. Pause in this position for a count of two. Repeat on the other side.
BONUS You can make this more difficult by holding some light weights in the hand that you reach down and under with.