Everyone wants a great midsection. But the core is more than just six-pack ab muscles. Doing Sit-Ups and Crunches all morning might prep you for the beach, but they should not be the only exercises you do to get ready for high levels of athletic performance.
Ab muscles might be hidden under body cushioning [fat] or feel like a soft pillow [lack of tone], depending on your physical state, level of fitness and the condition of your muscles. Exercising those muscles will make them stronger, toned and able to function more efficiently. But in a core routine, make sure to work more than your abs. Even more important are the muscles involved in moving and stabilizing the spinal column: the obliques, transverse abdominis and multifidus.
Your actions on the field—and even in everyday movement—are complex, involving numerous muscles, so your training program should be set up in a similar fashion.
One great movement is the Rollout. An old method employs a small wheel with a handle on either side. Start on your knees, grab the roller and extend.
Below is a barbell variation that can make your program rock.
- Take a regular barbell and put 10- or 25-pound plates on each end
- Kneel on a mat and grab the barbell with hands evenly spaced
- Keeping body tight, roll out as far as possible, extending arms past head; do not let hips drop
- Pull back to start position; repeat
To add variety, roll the barbell out at a 45-degree angle to the right, come back to start position and roll out to the left.
Similar to the Barbell Rollout, but start with your hands or [if you are a beginner] your forearms on a physioball for support.
- Kneel on a mat with your hands on the ball; the lower you place your hands, the more difficult the exercise becomes
- Keeping your body rigid, roll out as far as possible, extending arms past head; do not let hips drop
- Allow your head to drop between your arms for full extension
- Come back to start position.
To add intensity, work to a stand-up position instead of on your knees.
Suspension Training System Extension
Although the body movements are the same as with other rollout exercises, suspension extension is more difficult, because you are working from a standing position. You have to stabilize more weight, plus you use your entire body as a "lever arm"—instead of just your knees. All these qualities make it an advanced drill.
- Holding the handles of the suspension system, maintain braced core
- Extend arms straight overhead, letting your body move toward the floor
- Allow your head to drop between your arms, working to keep body in straight line; do not arch the back
- Pull back to start position by contracting core
Standing more upright makes the exercise easier. If you start lower with your feet farther back, you have to support more weight, making the extension harder—which means you incorporate more core work.
The Power Wheel is similar to the old wheel rollout device, but you place your feet in straps on the wheel.
- Get into a Push-Up position and lift hips up
- Pull feet toward chest, keeping legs straight
- Slowly work back to start position, maintaining good posture and bracing through entire movement
You can move in different directions and vary the range of motion. By moving your legs and keeping your upper body stabilized, you work through the core but affect different prime mover and stabilizer muscles.
Slide Board Rollouts and Pull-Ins
You need a slide board or similar device to perform this exercise.
- Place booties on your hands and kneel at the end of the board
- Slide hands forward, extending arms over head
- Pull back to start position
To change the exercise to a Pull-In, put the booties on your feet, position your body on the end of the slide board and hold onto the end piece. Slide your feet toward your hands, keeping legs straight and knees locked. Then slide back.
You can also do side-to-side slides. Get in a Push-Up position on the slide board, hands on the ground and booted feet in the middle of the board. Keeping your hands in same spot, move your feet to the right and left to work rotation movement.
Incorporating these five exercises into your core training workout can make you a rock-hard star on the field this year.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock