Go to your local gym, and you’ll find countless people trying to mold a six-pack with traditional Crunches. Training your core shouldn't be as mundane and generic as washing the dishes. Core training needs to be performance-based, implemented in many planes of motion. After all, you use your core for nearly every athletic move you make.
Training the core for function and purpose isn’t sexy, which is why I came up with “anti-ab” training. Crunches can’t help you crush a 300-yard drive in golf or a deliver a devastating right hook in the ring, but functional “anti-ab” exercises can. Get started with these four now:
This new twist on an old favorite adds an element of instability to the Sit-Up. It's an “integrated stabilization” exercise, which is especially relevant to rowers, who row on one side of their bodies while maintaining an upright position for extended periods of time.
- Get in a sit-up position next to a low cable handle
- Holding the cable handle in front of you with your arms straight, perform a Sit-Up without compromising your form or bending at the torso
- Always keep the cable handle aligned with your sternum and avoid setting the weight too heavy
- Perform 10-15 Sit-Ups per side, stopping early if your form starts to suffer
Stability Ball Crawl
Ever tried a plank? Ever tried a plank with your feet on the ball? Ever tried a plank with your feet on the ball while moving all of your limbs forward in synchronization? Didn't think so! I usually recommend this “dynamic stabilization” exercise to MMA fighters and wrestlers, who need to maintain their center of gravity through chaotic conditions.
- Before you progress to crawling, start by simply performing a Plank with your feet on the stability ball
- When you're ready, crawl your hands forward, pulling the ball along with the tops of your feet
- Don’t hike your butt in the air or sag your hips; see this video for correct form
- Increase your crawl incrementally; I often crawl 15 feet
This dynamic stabilization exercise is a hybrid of the Cable Chest Press, Cable Row and Standing Cable Chop. As a trainer, I've found it's a great fit for combat athletes like boxers and wrestlers as well as striking athletes like tennis players.
- Stand between two cable towers; set the weight on both towers to the same conservative weight
- Adjust the height of both handles to mid-torso and face one of the towers; the arm extended toward the tower is the “pulling arm”
- Perform a Standing Cable Chest Press with the non-pulling arm, while simultaneously performing a Standing Cable Row with the pulling arm
- As you perform the exercise, pivot your feet toward the tower and keep your torso erect
- Learn the movement by watching Andre Ethier perform it
- Perform 10-15 reps per side.
Stability Ball Pillar Rolls
This is another exercise that I use with wrestlers and MMA athletes, because it too focuses on center of gravity. The Pillar Roll would also be a terrific exercise for surfers. It’s not as physically demanding as the above exercises, but it requires a tremendous amount of coordination, making it the perfect addition to a dynamic warm-up.
- Lie chest-down on a stability ball
- Turn to your right and in one quick motion, shoot your left leg underneath you and turn over
- Repeat in the other direction. Have fun learning to fall!
Implement some of these exercises in your program to switch things up and to create a stronger core that looks great. Remember, athletes look good, but they train to perform even better.
Cosgrove, A. (June 2011). "The future of ab training." Muscle and Fitness, 76-84.
Earle, R. & Baechle, T. (2004). NSCA's Essentials of Personal Training. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics, p. 366.