The most effective exercises you can perform are those in which create the most impact for your muscles. What I would like to teach people is that certain exercises – despite how challenging they may be, are essential in producing the best results, in the fastest time. This is really what training is all about. I don’t believe there is any advantage to performing mediocre type exercises, and therefore becoming frustrated at the lack of progress you may be making.
Here are my top 6 exercises, which not only build and tighten the core, but also different muscles on your body, making you stronger, leaner and in better condition. That’s what to aim for with an exercise, so you hit all goals at once.
6 essential exercises for core, building strength, conditioning and getting leaner
- Chin up. These work the upper back and arms mostly, but do not dismiss their effects on the core and lower back.
Chin ups in fact, may be out of reach for a lot of people (and maybe you, although I’m not sure) but you can still slowly progress towards building and developing upper body strength and lifting your own body weight.
Method: Start by jumping up (holding onto the bar of course) and holding yourself in the flexed arm position (this is the top position of a chin up) and lower yourself as slowly as possible. Do this for 4 sets, at least 5–6 reps per set. You will be amazed when slowly, but surely, development towards performing a proper chin up, will be achieved in no time.
- Hexagon bar deadlift. It’s very important to lift weight from the grown upwards, in order to develop overall body strength. The hex bar allows beginners to develop primary core stabalisation that is most definitely required to move heavier loads.
If you are recovering from a lower back injury, you can safely use this bar to slowly progress back into deadlifting, without stressing the joints. Your quads are predominantly performing most of the work here, alleviating any strain in the back.
If you are new to deadlifting, or want to develop your strength a lot more, use the hex bar regularly, and not only will you be strengthening your core, but also working your whole body.
- Romanian deadlift. This movement hits the posterior chain of the glutes, hamstrings and lower back more so than a deadlift, because the knees are bent at 20 degrees, during the bottom position. Avoid flattening your back. An arch must be maintained throughout this range of motion.
Your core will be activated throughout, and assisting you to bend and lift the weight during the movement. Avoid lifting from your lower back, and focus on keeping the core in tightly.
When you lower the bar, keep your head up, but neutral to the torso during the movement. It’s important you keep form and posture under control to activate the necessary muscles.
- Garhammer raise. This exercise works the lower abdominal, as well as targeting the entire area of the abdominal wall.
If you are a beginner, you can start with this exercise on the floor, and progress onto a declined bench. Start with your legs bent, and together, and lift your knees up towards your chest. This movement must be performed under strict control, slowly and carefully. You can look up different techniques on you tube.
- Shoulder pressing. Ensuring you work your upper body with this movement, will prevent any shoulder injury that may result from overuse of exercises such as the bench press. We must ensure that working different muscles is essential for eliminating injury and muscular dysfunction.
Try and use a dumbbell, as this will allow stabilisation in each arm. A barbell allows for more usage of stronger muscles, and underdevelopment of the weaker links. Standing up whilst doing this exercise, provides more core stabalisation. You will be using your core to push the weight upwards and control it on the way down.
As you can see from these tips, stabalising and strengthening the core is achieved through various different lifts. This not only works the abdominals, but different parts of the body, for a more successful change in your overall body shape. Focus on the lifts with a bar, as they will require quite a bit of core strength and development. Core exercises as an isolated movement, should you the last point of focus. Do remember, that abs are made in the kitchen.
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