Strengthening the Core

by Crystal Powers on Oct 01, 2005

Add fun to your core moves with these effective exercises.

When designing a group core strengthening workout, it’s fun to blend traditional isolation exercises with nontraditional stabilization challenges. I cue my participants to think of the core as the entire torso minus the appendages and to remember that the muscles work as a synergistic team. I remind students that the stronger the abdominal group becomes, the stronger the back musculature can become, and vice versa.

As an instructor, how can you deliver a fun, safe and time-efficient core strengthening workout? Keep in mind that 85%–90% of all core musculature is nonvertical. Try the following four core strengthening exercises to work various muscle groups.

Superman Arm Sweep

Muscles Worked. This core strengthening exercise targets the spinal extensors.

How to Do the Exercise. Lying prone, draw the lower abdomen toward the spine. While squeezing the glutes together and the shoulder blades together, lift the head and torso off the ground and reach back toward the toes. Start with the arms at your sides, palms up. Hold the back extension; sweep arms horizontally, turning palms down, and end with the arms extended like Superman. Ten to 15 reps should fatigue most people.

For a more challenging option, have participants teeter-totter forward and back during the Superman phase. As the arms sweep into Superman, lift the thighs off the floor (hip extension) and hold a few seconds. Then sweep the arms back to the starting position, lifting the chest off the floor (back extension), and hold a few seconds.

Stability-Ball Balance Drill

Muscles Worked. This core strengthening exercise builds balance in all core stabilizer muscles.

How to Do the Exercise. Kneel on a stability ball. Attempt to lift the hands off the ball and place them out in front or overhead while balancing on the knees. Hold for 15–30 seconds; build up to a minute. If this exercise is too difficult for participants, have them remain on all fours or alternate lifting one arm at a time.

Partner One-Two Combo

Muscles Worked. This core strengthening exercise challenges muscular endurance and strength in the rectus abdominis and the internal/external obliques.

How to Do the Exercise. Ask people to partner up and face each other. Have them assume a starting sit-up position: knees bent, back on the floor, arms folded across the chest. The first person does a sit-up and throws a one-two cross-punch combo as the other sits up and places his palms facing away in a sparring position to receive the combo. Partners then lower into the starting position and do 15–20 reps. Repeat, switching roles.

Partner Band Pull-Downs

Muscles Worked. This core strengthening exercise challenges muscular endurance and strength in the transversus abdominis (TVA) and the rectus abdominis. It also works the core stabilizers in the neck, shoulder girdle and lumbar-pelvic-hip complex.

How to Do the Exercise. Ask people to pair up and go back to back. Instruct them to draw in the lower abdomen (TVA) toward the spine and maintain optimum postural alignment. Cue them to squeeze the buttocks and maintain the drawing-in maneuver. Have them hold a resistance band above their heads (begin with pink or yellow). The first partner holds the two handles; the second holds the middle of the band with two hands. The first person crunches forward while the other holds the band steady to provide resistance. Do 15–20 reps, and then switch roles. Rest, and repeat to fatigue.

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About the Author

Crystal Powers

Crystal Powers IDEA Author/Presenter

Crystal Powers has worked in the fitness industry for more than 25 years. She has been certified as an ACE professional since 1990 and thereafter achieved her B.Sc. Exercise and Nutritional Science from SDSU. Powers is a personal fitness trainer, group exercise instructor, fitness and wellness director and a member of the IDEA Program Director Committee for 4 years. Crystal is also a freelance photographer and writer, public speaker and presenter. She has worked with corporate wellness centers, community recreation facilities, private health clubs, non-profits, colleges, universities, international resorts and as an international P.E. instructor and presenter.