Core strength is the foundation of a strong and healthy body. A well-conditioned core allows for efficient movement and the stabilisation needed when performing any physical activity. In fact, both yoga and pilates place a lot of attention on building a strong core.
As more people focus on core training, it’s important to have a full understanding of what makes up the core as well as what exercises can help you maintain its function over time.
Defining the Core
When you think of core training, you may think of the exercises that train the abdominal muscles such as crunches, reverse crunches, and trunk twists. However, the core is a complex system of muscles and joints that includes the hips, spine, and shoulders.
Muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, lumbar erectors, and the rotator cuff muscles can also be considered as part of the core. Hence, there are many more exercises that can help build your core.
The following are 3 core exercises that aren’t crunches that maintain optimal core strength.
Forward Ball Roll
Although this exercise isn’t as well known as the crunch, it’s one of the most effective exercises to strengthen the hip flexors, abdominal muscles, latissimus dorsi, and even the triceps. The forward ball roll is an integrative exercise that combines multiple muscle groups that work alongside the abdominal muscles to provide stability to the hips, spine, and shoulders.
As a stabilisation exercise, it forces you to keep your spine in a neutral position while the hips and shoulders initiate the movement. The forward ball roll targets the deep stabilisers of the core, which are essential to preventing injury to the spine during physical activity.
Supine Lateral Ball Roll
Like the forward ball roll, the supine lateral ball roll trains multiple muscle groups at the same time. This is critical to training the body in a functional manner. The supine lateral ball roll works the body in multiple planes of movement. Your muscles must work against resistance that’s coming from multiple directions.
The muscles activated during this exercise include the hamstrings, glutes, lumbar erectors, internal and external obliques, latissimus dorsi, and the muscles of the rotator cuff among others.
The plank is the best known of the non-crunch core exercises. Like the forward ball roll and the supine lateral ball roll, the plank is a stabilisation exercise. The plank looks simple but don’t let that fool you. It can still be a tough exercise to do if you don’t have sufficient strength in your abdominals, shoulders, or hip flexors.
More importantly, there are many variations of the plank exercise that give you multiple ways to increase your core strength. The basic plank exercise consists of holding your bodyweight off the ground using your forearms and feet. This exercise can be modified by using your knees in place of your feet, which decreases the amount of resistance you have to work against.
The plank is an isometric exercise, which means there is no movement. You simply hold the position with good form for a set period of time. Side planks and posterior planks allow you to work the obliques and posterior aspect of the core.
If you hate doing crunches, these exercises are excellent alternatives for strengthening the core. If you do love your crunches, then you can add these to your core training routine to provide a more comprehensive approach to strengthening the muscles of the hips, back, abdomen, and shoulders.
A strong and functional core is the foundation of true strength which means a reduced risk of injury and a more balanced body. Use these three exercises to create a well-rounded programme that supports the health and performance of your core.