Strong and Stable Core Workout
Most of us know that Core Strength and Stability is incredibly important in maintaining overall physical fitness.
I’ve put together this five exercise routine that needs nothing more than an area of floor to carry out.
I’ve avoided situps and crunches, because the hinging in the hips and the lower back of these exercises can cause problems for many people. Instead I've focused on exercises that will build integrated strength and stability in all areas of our core muscles.
Give them a try and let me know how you get on with it.
- Dead Bug Sequence
- Dead Bug Circles
- The Climbing Dog
- Forearm Plank (Sphinx Variation)
- Side Plank with Reach Under
For all these exercises really try to maintain a mental focus on your core muscles, keep the feeling of an engaged core the whole time. Get this feeling by activating your pelvic floor, as though you are stopping yourself urinating, and by drawing your bellybutton in and a little up. Don't look to go fast, don't look to do hundreds of repetitions, instead try to concentrate on all times that feeling that stability in your core.
Descriptions & Videos
The great thing about Dead Bugs is that they are so brilliantly easy to adapt and progress.
In the video I go through a sequence I often do myself as part of a warmup, starting with single leg extensions, and ending up with an isometric hold in a low boat position.
I do these exercises with my shoulders raised a little from the floor, an adaption of this is to lower the shoulders and reduce the tension and therefore effort.
Dead Bug Circles
One of my favourite exercises. This is not normally something that people have seen before and it looks very easy. In fact it feels very easy for the first few seconds, and then rapidly gets harder.
We assume the dead bug position with the knees at 90°, the arms stretched up and the shoulders slightly lifted. Then using our transverse abdominals inch our way round in circles, like a bug spinning on its back.
This exercise will really engage and strengthen your lateral stability.
The Climbing Dog
This movement mixes yoga and bodyweight training.
From the traditional yoga pose of Downward Facing Dog where we stretch out our legs and mobilisation our shoulders we move forward into a high plank position bringing the knee to the outside edge of the corresponding arm, and for extra challenge lower it down to the wrist and bring it back up without touching the floor. Before stretching it back up into the sky.
We then repeat bringing the knee to the centre and meeting the head, before twisting to bring the need to the opposite elbow. with the option to lower again.
This exercise is all about core stability under movement. To perform these exercises we have to be soft and flowing in a body, but we have to be strong and stable in our core to allow us to achieve them without dropping to the floor.
They are a great challenge, watch the video and give them a go.
Forearm Plank (Sphinx Variation)
This is my version of the “oh so popular” Plank exercise.
The key to this Plank is the structure of the getting into it. Coming to the toes, lifting the knees, and then sliding the whole body up like a single plank of wood.
Very often you see plank exercises done with a hinge in the hips, that both reduces the exercise and increases potential for injury. This version is rather harder to be honest, but that’s a good thing in this context. The extension and stretching feeling is really going to work the deep abdominal muscles that we are looking to engage in this isometric hold.
You will see on the video that I also hold my forearms down with my fingers spread when I do this exercise, much like Sphinx pose in yoga, as opposed to being on the outside edge of my arms.
This is a more of a personal preference, as I like the grounding that my hands give me. Also rotating the hands and arms down slightly adjusts the positions of the shoulder and chest in a way that I prefer for alignment.
That said if you really prefer being on the edge of your arms and your fists be my guest. :-)
Side Plank with Reach Under
Leaving the best till last, I decided to include not just a regular Side Plank, but a variation using a dumbbell.
I should say straightaway of course, that if you don’t have a dumbbell you can do this with any other small weight or just not use a weight at all. You will still get the benefits.
The reason for the reach under is similar to the logic for the Climbing Dog, to successfully glide the hand underneath and backup in the slight plank position we really have to hold the core strong and stable while allowing other parts of the body to be mobile and fluid.
This is such a key skill to develop.
If you want to combine these 5 exercises together as a strong and stable core workout try the following (As always, feel free to adapt this to you and your body):
- Dead Bugs
Perform each variation of the exercise 10 times.
Hold final low boat position for 30 seconds.
- Dead Bug Circles
3 circles in each direction
- The Climbing Dog
Perform the 3 different exercises with each leg 3 times.
- Low Plank
Set a time period aim for with this exercise.
1/2/3 minutes etc
If necessary take a rest(s) to achieve the target.
- Side Plank - With Reach Under
Perform 8 repetitions on each side.