How to Build a Stronger and More Powerful Core
After watching many of the competitors in the American Ninja Warrior 2014 competition, I realized that the best of them also had the best core. You see, our core (which is made up of the abdominal muscles, obliques, multifidus, sacrospinalis, gluteus and lats) helps to stabilize the midpoint of our body and our pelvis during dynamic movement. I remember doing endless amounts of situps and later, crunches, believing they would help build my core the right way. It turned out, they didn’t.
When I trained and competed in powerlifting, my core got super strong while doing deadlifts. My glutes had to be engaged and the more weight I lifted, the stronger they got (as did the rest of my core muscles). That also help to build a good foundation as a bodybuilder. I’m not advocating the bodybuilder’s set of abs. While it may look good to have a nice set of 6-pack abs for the beach, it’s not going to help your body be at its best.
Getting back to the competitors of the American Ninja Warrior competition, most of them trained in various ways in order to help them go through each challenging obstacle. They had to work on every part of their body. They jumped, climbed, pushed and pulled. It was their core that was the central point needed to get through the obstacles. It’s the same for any athlete (and even for anyone that is fully functional physically).
A 2012 study, published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research showed that while exercises, like the front plank, helped to build static core strength, it did nothing for dynamic core strength. It’s important for the core to function in such a way to transfer power from the lower extremities to the upper body. Doing the right workouts will do that.
While it’s okay to do things like the front plank, that’s not going to build a powerful core. It takes really challenging the core to get it done. I’m going to suggest several different things and exercises that you can do that will help build that strong and powerful core.
- Lift objects from the ground using your glutes as a primary mover. Most people have weak gluteus muscles. If you’re ever seen a powerlifter, you’ll notice how large and strong their glutes are, especially the deadlifters. Even Olympic weight lifters need powerful glutes. In fact, they need them to be able to perform explosive strength movements.
- Do hanging leg raises. This is a basic abdominal exercise that can be challenging if done right. There are variations, like the side sweeper.
- Go for doing the front lever. Unlike the hanging leg raises, the front lever is done by raising your body until it’s parallel to the ground. You have to engage your whole core in which your body is kept straight as well as your lats, arms and shoulders. This is tough for most people.
- Freestanding handstands (handbalancing). In order to do a proper handstand, you’ve got to keep your whole core engaged. The longer you can hold it, the more your core will be challenged.
- Medicine ball plank. This is much more challenging than a standard front plank. You have to keep your whole body engaged as it works to keep balanced.
- Use the medicine ball to do explosive workouts by slamming it hard into the ground from an overhead start. You can do the same thing with a sledgehammer workout or chopping wood as well.
- Do pistol squats (one-legged). You have to really engage your core, especially your glutes. Add in single-legged toe touches. This works out your lower lumbar region.
- Power-Wheel workout. I used a Power Wheel that attaches to my feet. I’ll use it as I run across a field using my hands. My body is in a push-up position with my core stabilized. I also will roll my my body in and out, like a jackknife.
These are just a few of the plethora of exercises that you can use to help build your core the right way. Go for dynamic versus static exercises. There are usefulness with static core exercises, like what is need to keep one in a stable position. We see this with Marine Scout-Snipers. Movement takes dynamic core strength, not so much static strength. I wish you the best as you increase your core power and strength.
Cheers, Bob Choat