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My biggest indicator that my core needed to be strengthened and trained was the reoccurring back injury that kept me from training for longer races. Every time I would nurse it back to health, it would give out again shortly after I resumed my running routine. Since then I have been on a mission to engage my core in everything I do. Before every run you will find me stretched out on my toes and elbows, doing two sets of 60 second planks. Not only does this strengthen my core, it engages the muscles prior to my run so they continue working the entire course. Our panel of experts agree that planking is more than just a silly trend! Learn why the plank is such an effective core strengthening exercise and the different variations available to help you build on your progress.
The biggest problem I see when people work their core muscles is that they do mostly crunches/sit-ups, and nothing else. However, there is a lot more to having a strong core than just having six-pack abs. Because of this, doing plank exercises is by far one of the best CORE exercises out there. The standard and side planks combine to work every aspect of your core, including your abs, obliques, and back musculature.
Best Core Strengthening Exercises
Being a former NCAA athlete and now a Strength Coach, there are a ton of core/ab exercises you can do. However, I feel there are a few essential ones that are simple, but have to be done on a regular basis (2x/week minimum), planks, side planks and all the progressions of them. For example, you could start with a push up position plank, then progress to a plank on your elbows. Then to a plank with your feet in a TRX or other suspension system. Side planks can progress to things like “Hip Ups” or to “Threading the Needle” then to a TRX or a Lebert Equalizer. These movements are your base or core foundation that you can build upon. 30 second holds are a good start here. As for my favorite core/ab exercise, its the core sprinter! Lie on your back with arms by your sides. Just like doing a full sit up, raise your upper body off the floor keeping your left finger tips touching the floor and your right arm firing up with your upper body (like your are sprinting). At the same time thrust your left leg up to your chest while the right leg stays straight. Lie back flat and repeat raising up your upper body with the left arm and right leg firing. Work towards 30 total reps per set.
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