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No matter what sport code we belong to or follow, there is one central aspect that all of us share; a strong core. A strong core resonates in all of us, but it is especially true in athletes who are training for function. You not only use your core in all compound movements, but a strong core is the foundation from which raw strength is cultivated. We can always work on improving our core strength, as a stronger core leads to a surge in pure strength and heavier lifts.
The answer to building your core strength does not lay in high rep or even heavy weight training. Functionality is the key world here, so the best course is to functionally use your core to build strength. One way is to build isometric strength through stability/stationary movements. The better stability you have in your core, the more stable you will be in your push and pull movements.
The ring pull up is the best option to go for here, focusing on the top half the movement as well as the second half, as a superset. Pull yourself up to the top of the movement and hold this for 20 seconds, then lower to the bottom of the movement and hold this for 20 seconds. Optimal volume is repetition for 6 sets. The key here is to really focus on keeping yourself stable with your core and not your arms/deltoids.
Isometric core movements are fantastic because they require you to keep your body stable with your core, similarly to when are pressing or lifting. But they alone will not be enough to build that strength, because they only activate a certain function of the core. Another side that must be targeted is the dynamic aspect of the core, the way it works when we are moving. This calls on various sections of the core simultaneously, creating more core strength. A great exercise here is the Turkish get-up, or a front-squat-type walk.
Deadlifts are still rated as the king of core movements. But, to superset your heavy deadlifts with hollow holds is definitely not a good idea. Instead, dial back the weight just a smidge, and then superset your lifts with the hollow body hold.
To perform the hollow holds, lie flat, and press your lower back into the floor. Extend your arms above and behind your head, and lift your legs straight out. Your legs and arms should be about 12 inches off the ground, with your body in the shape of a bow for the full 20 seconds. This is not an intense paced exercise, but try to move quickly between the deadlift and the hollow holds, so that you have enough time to set up for each, and keep the intensity.
Rotation exercises are a great change up from static holds, as well as being more concentrated than dynamic. The rotation sets will blast your serratus anterior muscle group, as well as your oblique’s. They also force you to control your breathing more actively due to the pressure that it places on your diaphragm, which will help in other workouts you do as well. To really hammer these sections, we will do a small circuit of three exercises; wall ball squat, Russian twist, and over the shoulder, all of which are done with a medicine ball, and at a pace of 20 secs work with 10 secs rest.
Front-loading is an extremely effective way of putting emphasis on your core, seeing as how it works your abdominals, lower back, as well as upper back, all to keep you and the extra weight upright. This leads to complete core development, as well as development in your erector spine, leading to full body strength. Variations of front squats are all effective ways of engaging these systems; front rack carries, sandbag thrusters, and front lunges.
This is how cores are being turned into load bearing foundations all across the world, and if you don’t believe what has been said, set up a little experiment that will be nothing but beneficial. Spend some time working on your core strength, without any aids such as belts, using the methods described above, and you will see how much stronger you are, and how much heavier you can lift.