Developing a strong core and knowing how to properly engage it during dynamic movements can be the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete or a 5lb PR and a 20lb PR. Oftentimes, the importance of one’s abdominal muscles (also known as the core) is understated and underemphasized in many CrossFit gyms. Proper engagement of the core is essential in increasing strength, developing good movement patterns and preventing injuries (you can read more about these concepts in the previous article titled Core-To-Extremity Movement and the Importance of Engaging One’s Core). Here are 3 exercises to help you improve your core strength and stability.
Modified Dead Bug Exercise
For this dead bug exercise, the athlete will be lying on their back with a light band around their mid-foot. They will start with both legs off the ground so that they form a ninety-degree angle. Throughout the duration of the movement, the athlete should think about keeping their lower back pressed into the ground. As they move each leg, they want to avoid having their lower back come off the ground. The athlete will press one leg slowly towards the ground while the other leg stays holding the ninety-degree position. Once their heel touches the ground, the athlete will slowly return their leg to its starting position. The band around the athlete’s feet challenges the hip flexor to assist in trunk stability which increases hip flexor strength and improves core stability at the same time.
Single Leg Bridge with Offset Weight
This exercise is a single leg bridge with a small twist. The athlete will start by lying on their back with their heels pulled in close to their glutes. The athlete will then grab a kettlebell in one arm and hold it directly over their shoulder. They will then extend their same leg (right arm, right leg) so that it is straight and their quad is parallel to the opposite one. Then the athlete will perform single leg bridges, driving through the heel of the planted foot and squeezing their glutes at the top of the bridge. This is an excellent exercise to train cross body stability by focusing on the relationship between the hip and opposite shoulder. Added bonus: you’ll work your glutes at the same time!
Marching Farmer’s Carry
This exercise is not your typical farmer’s carry. The athlete will hold a kettlebell in one arm at their side. The athlete will then march in place by bringing their knees up (one at a time) past their hip crease. The goal of this movement is to keep a neutral position (not letting their spine flex or extend as they march) and maintain control (they shouldn’t be falling to one side or the other). The athlete can add more difficulty to this exercise by holding the kettlebell in the front rack position as well as overhead. Each of these variations are an excellent way to train midline stability, abdominal strength and spinal stability all in one.
For more videos on core strength and stability exercises, check out the Laughlin Performance and Physical Therapy website at: https://www.lpptkc.com/exerciselibrary