I know a lot of fitness professionals have a disdain for the word "core" or the term "core training," but I am just not one of them. Simply because there really isn't any better way to define a lot of exercise that I have clients do other than "core" exercises.
I also know that the term "core" can mean different things to different people so I'll just give you how I define the "core."
The "core" to me encompasses everything from the shoulders to the hips. In particularly the muscles which surround the abdominal cavity and help provide stability to the spine.
Traditionally most people train this area using exercises like crunches and leg raises. The idea of these exercises being to strengthen and develop the musculature of the "core" by making them create movement. This is completely wrong, but it overlooks the primary function of these muscles. Yes they do have origins and insertions that allow them shorten and create movement, but their true function is to act as resisters of movement.
This is probably the concept that I introduce all my clients to that is the most foreign to them.
Most have spent years training that involved trying to crunch, knee raise, and twist their way to a strong and muscular mid-section so the idea of training the core without any of the previously mentioned exercises is odd.
But in all actuality training the core to resist movement instead of create it is much more functional and healthy for the spine. It will allow someone to develop a strong and stable torso from which they can produce strength and power from. Not to mention that if you really want to have a muscular and lean appearing midsection you should be focusing more losing fat than doing hundreds of crunches.
As I said a strong and stable core also allows one to display greater force and produce more power both of which will allow you to build more muscle, lose fat, and build a body that functions as well as it looks.
All of that being said the first exercises I introduce to clients in order to teach them how to implement this concept of training the core to resist movement is a plank, specifically the RKC plank. The "RKC" stands for Russian Kettlebell Club, well, because they are the organization largely credited for the popularizing this version of the plank.
The goal of any plank is to strengthen the musculature of the core by forcing it to resist extension of the spine. That is to resist your abdomen from sinking towards the ground and your lower back arching. However many people I see performing a plank displays this exact posture. The very posture that you are supposed to be fighting so hard to prevent during the exercise.
However this is where the RKC version of the plank comes into the picture. This version of the plank turns what is typically a passive exercise into a much more active exercise. It prevents anyone from performing the exercise with awful body position.
The difference between a normal plank and a RKC plank is that it is performed with a longer lever that is instead of your elbow being directly below your shoulder you place it slightly in front of your shoulder. Then when you rise into the plank position you think about squeezing your glutes as hard as you can while drawing your rib cage toward your pelvis. It's slightly like performing a small crunch while in the plank position. This gives your back a slightly flexed posture.
When done correctly this exercise light up your abdomen. I don't know of a single person I have trained and used this exercise on who did not express their disdain for how hard this exercise forced their midsection to work. It is so awesome!
I'd recommend starting this exercise for short durations and really nailing the position and activation of the core muscles. Then as you develop more strength increasing the duration of the static hold. I'd start specifically with a 15 second hold then work up to 45 seconds.
Below is a video of me demonstrating the exercise in its entirety.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training