Today much of our core training is concerned with balance, stability and activation of the deep abdominal muscles. While this has a role, many don’t realize that prior to this type of training, we used to perform extremely effective core exercises. This article describes three “old school” exercises you can use for core training. Finally, it shows you a couple of progressions for each exercise to make them more challenging as you become more fit.
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Hanging Straight Leg Raises
This is the most effective exercise at recruiting the rectus abdominus and obliques. The lower back and hip flexors are also engaged. To perform the exercise, you need something you can grab and hang down from so that your feet don’t touch the ground.
Hang down. Keep your legs straight. Tighten your abs—i.e., draw your abs in and attempt to touch your navel to your spine. Keeping your legs straight, raise them up in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Lower under control and repeat. Avoid swinging. This exercise is typically done for repetitions.
When you can comfortably perform 20-25, consider adding weight. This is done by performing the exercise while holding a dumbbell between your feet.
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When you can comfortably do this exercise with 10 percent of your body weight for 20-25 repetitions, you can move to the advanced variation. You need a partner for this. Hang down from the bar and hold a medicine ball between your feet. Have your partner stand in front of you. Keeping your legs straight, raise them and throw the medicine ball to your partner. Have your partner place the ball back between your feet. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
This exercise is effective for the rectus abdominis, obliques and hip flexors. The advanced variation requires a partner. Normally this exercise is done on a sit-up bench that allows you to secure your feet.
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Sit on the bench and make sure your feet are secure. Place your hands on your hips or across your chest. Try to keep a straight line from your shoulder to your hips. Maintaining that straight line, sit back until your lower back touches the bench. Sit up. Repeat for repetitions.
This variation is done by holding a dumbbell or other weight across your chest. Maintaining the straight line from your shoulders to your hips, begin lowering yourself down to the bench. As you do this, take as long as possible before you reach the bench. Once you reach the bench, sit up as explosively as possible. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Sit on the sit-up bench and make sure your feet are secure. Hold a medicine ball over your head. Maintaining your straight line, sit back until your lower back touches the bench. Explosively sit up and throw the medicine ball to your partner. Have your partner throw it back. Repeat for sets of 10-15 repetitions.
This is a largely forgotten exercise that is extremely effective at developing the muscles along the spine, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. For this exercise, you need a back raise bench that makes a 90-degree angle with the ground.
Position yourself facedown so that your heels are restrained. Place your hands across your chest. Keeping a straight line from your hips to your shoulders, lower your upper body until you have a 90-degree angle at your hip. Raise your upper body until it is parallel to the floor. A great cue for this exercise is to move from your hips, not your back. Perform for repetitions.
When you can perform 20-25 repetitions, attempt this exercise with weight. Hold the weight across your chest (cross your arms across your chest to hold the weight). Concentrate on maintaining a straight line.
When you can perform 20-25 repetitions with 10 percent of your body weight, you can move on to the advanced version. Begin with your upper body parallel to the floor. Hold a 5- to 10-pound weight plate with straight arms. From this position, twist your body to the right until your arms are parallel to the floor. Turn to face the floor again. Now twist to the left. Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.