There's a reason why pro athletes like Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning and Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander train their entire cores—and it goes well beyond sculpting a washboard stomach.
"A strong core enables you to be a strong athlete and more efficient in your movements," says Colorado Rapids fitness coach John Ireland.
A strong, balanced core supports the body's structure, enabling you to execute a skill consistently, powerfully and safely. But to develop the strength to do so, you've got to train your entire core, including crucially important, lesser-known muscles.
The abdominal muscles are only one part of the core. The others are the obliques, low back extensors, hips flexors and glutes. All of these areas function together to efficiently transfer force between the upper and lower body.
If your core is weak, your lower or upper body can't efficiently transfer force. And your body will attempt to compensate with extra movement, resulting in loss of balance.
Strengthening the entire core requires more than performing Crunches. Use functional exercises like Olympic lifts, variations of the Plank, and single-leg or single-arm exercises. These force you to use your hips, glutes, abs and back muscles to stabilize and generate power during an athletic skill.
Incorporating stability and rotational exercises is the key to successful core training. To gain the full benefits, replace exercises that involve flexion while lying on your back (e.g., Crunches) with off-the-ground, functional exercises.
Total Core Exercises
Throw out your ab-busting six-pack routine and add these performanceenhancing exercises to your workouts.
Med Ball Rotational Throws
- Assume athletic stance with feet shoulder-width apart
- Stand with partner or wall five yards to the left
- Explosively rotate through core and throw med ball at partner/ wall
- Maintain tight abs and stable lower body during rotation
- Receive med ball and continuously repeat for specified reps
- Perform set with partner or wall to right
Sets/Reps: 2x10-15 each side
Benefits: This exercise is a full core workout that strengthens the core rotators and hips, the source of strength and power for rotational movements involved in hitting, throwing and changing direction.
- Assume Push-Up position and dig toes into top of ball
- Keeping back flat and core stable, drive knees to chest to roll ball toward hands
- Extend hips and knees to roll ball to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Benefits: This unstable exercise strengthens the essential core stabilizers, which guard against injuries and provide stability throughout contact movements such as tackling, breaking tackles and boxing out.
Med Ball Back Hypers
- Assume position on Hyper machine so upper body is perpendicular to floor
- Hold med ball with arms extended toward ground
- Raise upper body until parallel to floor
- Lower with control
- Repeat for specified reps
Benefits: This extension exercise offsets focus on the abs and creates proportionate core strength. A balanced core efficiently and safely transfers force between the upper and lower body, which translates into more power.
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