If you are pre/post natal, have had surgery, in a relationship, suffer from a diastase, hold neck tightness, have a ‘six pack’, spinal issues, core instability, own a pet, or basically a human being, these next two exercises about to be dropped on you will change your life.
What are these life changing, fascinating core exercises I speak of? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… * Cue Drum roll *…. two exercises working your core stabilizers – the transverse abdominis, multifidis, and internal/external oblique..
Ms. Pallof Press and Sir. Suitcase Carry!
More about the two stars, later. Here I will tell you what they are working and why we need to perform them. Below are 3 diagrams (Google images graciously donated) to help illustrate:
Beautiful, aren’t they, but why? Why are these so important to you? Well, with conventional ‘ab training’ we often don’t work the entire core, leaving out some very important partygoers. Not cool, we want everyone invited to the party. We don’t exclude here. Excluding = bad. Often with our conventional ab workouts, the go-to’s are sits-ups, crunches, bicycle crunches, etc., etc. often working the most popular ab muscle - the rectus abdominis or ’the jock’, or “cheerleader” if you will. They are more famously know as, “the six pack”.
However, even the popular kids have their group of followers, they’re “supporters” or “stabilizers”. With any group or team you need all members active and working together in order to be successful. No man left behind. Your core is no different. Allow me to go into a little more detail, on exactly how these two partiers are to be performed:
Standing with feet shoulder width apart, chest out, keep shoulders back and squeeze your butt. Control the movement – do not be a spazzz here. This is about stabilization and yes, control. You will want to extend your arms fully (locked elbow) and pause for a 2 second count as you’re exhaling, then return back to the starting position with an inhalation (generally the sternum or middle of your chest). That’s 1 rep.
Choose a heavy weight. Just one. This can be a dumbbell, kettlebell, a milk jug, or even an actual suitcase. You will want to stand upright, core braced (rib cage tucked or not poking outward). Grip the handle of the object as hard as you can.
Grip Tip: in the beginning the main grip should come from your ring finger, and pinky finger. Why? Well because they are the cutest. Kidding, kind of. But these fingers are typically the weakest of the hand, so using the first bit of energy expenditure on these little guys will be easier once strength dwindles and the main squeezers (thumb, pointer, and middle) can take over from there for the rest of the duration. This adds a little more focus on strengthening your grip strength.
Once said object is gripped, keeping upright posture, eyes gazing forward, shoulders back, proceed to walk in a controlled manner. It is important to maintain your core contraction, while maintaining proper inhale/exhale breathing patterns. Maintaining the core contraction is important to prevent the torso from teetering from side to side. Again, please do not hold your breath.
This is a great exercise to build total core strength, grip strength, and shoulder strength, and applies largely into daily life. Big strength changes noticed from clients are; groceries are easier to carry, suitcases are not as heavy, jars now ‘pop open’. Also form while performing heavy carries seems to now feel “strong’ without ‘hunching”.
Where and when do you perform these core gems in a workout? Particularly you can add them in where ever you see fit. Occasionally I’ve put them between circuits as a little “core break”, clients tend to enjoy that “active rest”. More often I add them into the end of the workout given that you have the least amount of energy and these two typically don't dispense a whole lot.
If you have any questions regarding this article, you’re core, or health/fitness in general feel free to send me a message.
PS: given my recent viewing of an Edmonton Fringe play, my childhood love of Mortal Kombat has been rekindled. So I am open to that discussion as well.