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Building Core Strength Without Extra Core Exercises

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Training the core is essential, but with numerous fitness goals to achieve, gym time can quickly add up. We often think dedicating specific time to core exercises is necessary for core strength.

Although that might be true for the most optimal gains, there are effective ways to engage the core during routine exercises without adding extra time to your workout. Here are four strategies to incorporate more core work into your existing routine.

  1. Bracing the Core Before delving into specific techniques, it is crucial to understand the importance of core bracing. Proper core bracing allows us to engage the core with every exercise, even if it isn’t a direct core workout. Lack of core stability during exercises such as squatting, deadlifting, and overhead pressing can lead to instability issues like rib flare, anterior pelvic tilt, posterior pelvic tilt, and excessive lumbar lordosis.

To brace the core effectively:

Squeeze both the glutes and abs to position the pelvis and lumbar spine neutrally, resulting in a waistband parallel to the floor. Remove any rib flare by pulling the ribs down with the abs aligning the ribs parallel to the pelvis. By mastering core bracing, every exercise can become a core exercise, enhancing stability and overall strength.

  1. Unilateral Training Unilateral training involves loading only one arm or leg, creating an asymmetrical load that forces the core muscles on the opposite side to engage for stability.

Examples of unilateral exercises include single-leg Romanian deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, single-arm overhead presses, and single-arm rows.

The asymmetrical load in unilateral training requires greater core engagement and stability. Additionally, it offers benefits such as:

Reduced overall load benefits recovery and individuals who cannot tolerate higher loads.

Improved stability and balance.

Comparable muscle activation to bilateral variations. Incorporating unilateral exercises into your routine can enhance core strength and improve overall functional fitness.

  1. Training in Odd Positions Odd position training involves performing typical exercises in unconventional positions. For instance, an overhead press can be done while sitting on the floor, which removes the legs from the equation and forces the core to work harder to maintain posture.

Training in new and odd positions exposes the core to different stabilizing demands. Some positions to consider include:

Sitting on the floor

Half-kneeling or double-kneeling Split stance

Training in odd positions allows for creativity and customization based on individual goals.

For example, athletes in ground-based sports like jiu-jitsu might benefit from double-kneeling exercises, as these positions are common in their sport.

Here are some conventional to odd position exercise modifications:

Seated bench overhead press to Seated floor overhead press Cable chest press to Tall double kneeling cable chest press Single-arm cable row to Split stance single-arm cable row Deadlift to Single-leg RDL

  1. Trade Sitting for Standing Machines with seats or benches offer many benefits, but for efficient core engagement, try swapping seated exercises with their standing equivalents. For instance, replace a seated row with a standing bent-over row, or swap a seated leg curl with a Romanian deadlift.

Standing exercises require more core stability and balance, engaging the core muscles more effectively than seated exercises.

Additional Strategies for Core Engagement In addition to the above methods, incorporating exercises that inherently demand core stability can further enhance core strength. For example:

Planks and their variations Functional movements like kettlebell swings and Turkish get-ups Dynamic movements such as mountain climbers and burpees

These exercises target the core directly and integrate it into full-body movements, promoting overall functional fitness.

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