Incorporating these 3 core strengthening exercises for lifters will be a game changer in your workouts, even if you don’t lift heavy things. Find out the importance of these three moves and why they are key to better lifts, injury prevention and more.
3 Core Strengthening Exercises for Lifters
WELCOME to the Capable & Strong Series!
This series is all about strength training. We will be chatting about things from reasons why women should lift to suggested supplements to building a strong body and mind! And you can expect strength training workouts.
Well, hey! How’s it going?! Friday and a 3 Day Weekend! Wooo!
Today, we are continuing our chat on our core and I’ve got 3 important core strengthening exercises for lifters. Now, obviously you can do these exercises if you don’t lift weights because they are wonderful for building strong local stabilizer muscles. However, especially with big lifts like squat, bench and deadlift, these exercises are KEY! Now, there are obviously more exercises that you could do, but these are 3 that I incorporate on a daily basis AND 3 that I share with my clients and Facebook Squad.
This was one of the exercises that my chiropractor suggested I incorporate on a daily basis, when I was working on rehabbing my SI joint injury. This exercise looks easy, but if you are properly bracing your core and not plowing through the exercise, it can burn so good. The basic move is what we are talking about today, but a few variations include: holding kettlebell or plate in hands and moving both arms down, with 1 leg; holding a kettlebell in one hand and moving arm out horizontally when leg moves down; placing a loop resistance band around feet. Email me if you want more options!
HOW-TO: Lay on ground with knees at 90 degrees, neck neutral, arms at your side. Tuck pelvis, engage core muscles and press ribs down as you exhale, to allow entire back to touch the ground. Lift legs so there is a 90 degree angle at the hip and knees. Lift head, keeping chin tucked, so shoulders are touching the ground. Arms should be straight up. Very slowly, lower opposite arm and leg to just hover over the ground, exhaling on the way down. Return to starting position and repeat.
Common Form Errors
In the top row of photos, you can see that my back is arched (so much that I can stick my hand under my back) at the start and when my leg lowers. Additionally, my knee moved back towards the midline, rather than stay at 90 degrees with my hip.
If your back arches at the starting position: work on bracing that core, while standing, for one thing. Instead of lifting both legs, keep feet and head on the ground, while keeping pelvis tucked and back on the ground. Lift only 1 leg, keeping 90 degrees at the knee and hip. Hold 1- 2 seconds, lower back down and repeat on the other side. One you feel comfortable, move to raising both legs.
If your back arches as you lower a leg & arm: Two options: 1. only lower to the point where you feel your back start to arch. That means you might lower only a few inches, rather than lowering all the way to the ground. Practice in the spot that’s best for you and as you gain strength, you will be able to lower further. OR, 2: lower just the arm or just the leg, rather than both. Right arm, left arm, left leg, right leg. Once you feel more comfortable, lower both.
If your knee moves back towards the midline, instead of staying at 90 degrees when you lower: keep your mind on your muscles and keep an eye on your movement in a mirror. At times, my knee will track back as well. Focus on that core and keeping it strong.
Stir the Pot
This is another exercise that my chiro gave to me when working on SI joint rehab. It’s another that looks easy, but, like with deadbug, if you are properly bracing that core, it’s a killer. The beauty of this move is that it works in the Transverse Plane. Transverse plan bisects the body in the upper and lower halves, and works internal/external rotation. Even though our trunk is not moving during this exercise, the rotation of the upper body still works the core.
HOW-TO: Come onto your knees with stability in front of you. Clasp hands together. Roll shoulders back and down, squeezing the lats. Tuck pelvis, engage core and press ribs down as you exhale. With forearms on the ball, move forward so that knees either stay slightly bent (Option #1) or straighten (Option #2). Feet should be about hip width apart. With back flat and core braced, move forwards and upper body in small circles, clockwise and counterclockwise. Stop as soon as back starts to arch and you are unable to keep core engaged.
Common Form Errors
In the top photo for Option #1 and Option #2, you can see that my back is arched and not braced. Additionally, my glutes, quads and hamstrings are not engaged.
If your back arches with Option #2: step back to Option #1. With knees slightly bent, it gives a bit more support and stability.
If your back arches with Option #1: move to your knees. Keeping the knees on the ground will give you more stability and support.
Plank (hand or elbow)
Errrryone loves the plank. I’ve shared on the blog before the time when I worked towards at 5 minute plank and how I likely won’t try to do it again. If you remember, if you are truly bracing your core, you will likely be shaking within 30 seconds. When we do a 5+ minute plank, it’s very likely we are working on other muscles to keep us in position. So, if you are rocking a 5+ minute plank, make sure to check you are actually keeping that core braced/engaged the entire time.
HOW-TO: (Hand Plank) Come onto your hands and knees. Wrists should be directly under your shoulders, fingers wide. Reposition, if needed and ensure that hand is fully on the ground (imagine it’s suction cupped to the ground), with fingers wide. Move from knees to the toes, ensuring toes are curled to provide more support. To ensure core is engaged, I tell people to over exaggerate putting their butt in the air, then scoop and tuck pelvis and core under, then squeeze core, GLUTES, hamstrings and quads. This move requires all muscles be engaged, not just the core.
(Elbow Plank) Come onto your hands and knees. Place forearms on the ground, directly under your shoulders, fingers wide. Reposition, if needed and ensure that hand is fully on the ground (imagine it’s suction cupped to the ground), with fingers wide. Think about the Sphynx. Move from knees to the toes, ensuring toes are curled to provide more support. To ensure core is engaged, I tell people to over exaggerate putting their butt in the air, then scoop and tuck pelvis and core under, then squeeze core, GLUTES, hamstrings and quads. This move requires all muscles be engaged, not just the core.
Common Form Errors
The top photo is one I often see for plank challenges. Sure, it looks cute, but my butt is in the air and my core is NOT engaged at all. I also often see people clasping their hands together, which puts unnecessary strain on the shoulders.
If your butt sags and core is not engaged in elbow plank: move to hand plank and really work that mind muscle connection.
If your butt sags and core is not engaged in hand plank: work on pelvic tucks. Assume starting position for deadbug, with feet on the ground and knees bent. Work with your breath to do pelvic tucks.
Whew! I think we made it through. Like I said, there are more exercises and potentially more form issues, but these are the biggies!
Pin the 3 main moves for later!
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Y’all, that was a lot. I’m betting you read through it in half the time it took me to write! Hah! So, weekend!!! Gah! I love 3 day weekends. Tonight, we are just hanging out, maybe going to the gym. Saturday, we have a movie and lunch date with the Hubs parents. We are finally seeing Guardians of the Galaxy!!!! Sunday, my Thug Bestie is coming into town to hang out and grab brunch and craft! And Monday, I’ve got a date with my business. Planning on working projects all day!
Tell me what you are up too!
SO, TELL ME:
Do you incorporate these core strengthening exercises for lifters in your workouts?
What are you doing this weekend?!