Proper, consistent core training helps to create efficient movement patterns and also improves the efficiency of your time in the gym. These seven exercises and drills should be done throughout your training season to ensure you’re building a strong, engaged core, preventing injury and performing at an optimal level.
Core Training for Movement Efficiency
The theme of these exercises is that they involve multiple muscle groups. They challenge your body to recruit multiple muscle groups toward an athletic movement, thereby maximizing your efficiency of movement.
Additionally, even though the prime mover of each exercise is not necessarily your core, they all involve core strength and stability, so they teach your body to engage your core to support your movement while swimming, biking and running.
When you are able to recruit multiple muscles for one movement, you are not only preventing injury by overusing a single muscle or muscle group, but you are able to produce more power, propulsion and speed.
Core Training for Time Efficiency
The other reason these exercises are so beneficial is because you are getting so much more out of your strength training sessions. You can ensure that you are working out all of the muscles that you need to train in less exercises, and therefore, in less time. It’s time to throw out the excuse that you don’t have time for strength training!
These exercises are a complete, balanced workout because collectively, they include each muscle group. The exercises are listed in terms of least challenging to most challenging, generally speaking.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses and you may find some of the easier ones more challenging, or some of the more difficult ones might be more natural for you.
1. Bird Dogs: Starting on your hands and knees, start by extending your right arm and left leg straight out in opposite directions. You should focus on engaging your core to stay stable, and your left glute to ensure maximum extension. Bring your right elbow and left knee toward each other to touch if you can, then extend them back out. After the given number of reps on that side, switch to your left arm and right leg. The slower the better. (See a demonstration of Bird Dog here)
2. Bent Over Rows: From a standing position with your feet at hip-width distance, bend over with a slight bend in your knees, and ensure that your back is flat by pulling your shoulders back, engaging your core, and keeping the S-curve in your lower back. With a dumbbell in each hand, lift the dumbbells to your side, keeping your elbows close to your body, and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the rep. (See a demonstration of Bent Over Row here)
3. Scorpion Pushups: Start in a pushup position, do one pushup, then rotating your body to the left, bend your right knee, bringing the leg up and over the left side, and place it on the ground. Then touch your left foot to your right arm, bring your right foot back to the starting position, do another pushup, then repeat on the other side. (See a demonstration of Scorpion Pushups here)
4. Back Lunge with Twist: Start from a standing position, step your right leg back into a lunge and then twist your upper body towards the right side, ensuring that your right knee stays steady while you twist. Alternate legs and add weight as you feel comfortable. Focus on stability around your knees and hips. (See a demonstration of the Back Lunge w/Twist)
5. Ice Skaters: Begin in a standing position with your knees slightly bent, then start by pushing laterally off your right leg and landing on your left leg with your knee bent. Then jump laterally from your left leg back to your right leg, and so on. Start with small jumps to maintain your balance and lateral stability, then challenge yourself to jump wider to work on lateral power. (See a demonstration of Ice Skaters here)
6. Turkish Get-Ups: Lay supine on the ground holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand with your arm extended. Bent your right knee and place your right foot on the floor. Raise your right shoulder off the floor by pressing into your left elbow. Sit all the way up, using your left arm to help you. Lift your hips off the ground, swing your left leg under your body and put your left knee down onto the ground, all the while keeping the kettlebell directly up in the air with your arm straight. Stand all the way up, then start your progression back to the ground, going through the steps in the opposite order. Then repeat on your left side. (See a demonstration of a Turkish Get-Up here)
7. Run Drills, holding a medicine ball overhead: This exercise can be applied to any run drill of your choice. The videos demonstrate the medicine ball being added to: A-skip, side shuffling and karaoke. The purpose is to teach your body to use your core to maintain posture while running, so that your form doesn’t break down as quickly when you get tired. The medicine ball should be directly overhead. Focus on keeping your shoulders pulled down your back and your core engaged.
A. A-Skip w/Med Ball Demonstration
B. Side Shuffle w/Med Ball Demonstration
C. Karaoke w/Med Ball Demonstration
This article originally appeared at Trainingpeaks.com.
Laura Marcoux is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach and NSCA Strength Coach with D3 Multisport. Laura is a Kona qualifier and former Division 1 athlete at the University of Connecticut. Laura believes in developing well-rounded triathletes by incorporating functional strength into their training routines and empowering her athletes to set and reach goals that require the 3 D’s, which are the cornerstone of D3 Multisport: Desire, Determination, and Discipline.