Our Two Favourite CORE Exercises

"What exercises should I be doing for my core?" is a question I get asked in the gym ALL the time. And its a great question, but its a lot more complicated than people realise. 

The 'core', like its name suggests, is the core stabiliser to your entire body. Think about where your abdominals sit, smack bang in the middle of you right? 
These muscles stabilize the body while in upright, antigravity position or while using the arms and legs to throw or kick. These muscles maintain the body’s structure during vigorous exercises such as running, jumping, shoveling and lifting weights. These muscles also control the head, neck, ribs, spine and pelvis.

Contrary to popular misconception, the “core” is not just your abs and lower back; it’s all of your torso muscles (shoulders, glutes, abs, mid-back, lats, etc.) minus your arms and legs. So they really couldn't be any more important! 

When it comes to training these core muscles, its not as simple as doing a few sit ups before bed time. In fact, this is the worst thing you could do for your abdominals (but I'll save that rant for another blog).
The following two exercises are my favourites when it comes to isolating some of your core muscles.

1. Swiss Ball Crunches
Don't be fooled, these aren't easy just because you get to sit down on a squishy ball. These require true focus otherwise your lower back will try help you and that will lead to a couple of painful days following. 
This exercise particularly isolates your upper abdominals (Rectus Abdominis), and they are a great alternative to the age old sit up on the floor. 

How to do the exercise:

First, lie over the Swiss ball, with your head resting back on the ball and your back curved over the ball (see image). Ensure that your tongue is on the roof of the mouth, just behind the front teeth.

Then, curl up from the head, one vertebrae at a time until the rectus abdominis is fully contracted. Slowly reverse the curl, ending with the neck and head.

When done correctly, you’ll know that you’ve gone too far if your muscles are trembling. In this case, slow down the exercise.

Common errors:

  • Don’t clasp your hands behind your head. This tends to pull on your neck and promote poor postural engrams. Just place your fingertips on the back of your ears.
  • Don’t go too fast. You will lose many benefits of this exercise if you try to use momentum to perform the exercise.

2. Plank
Planking is a simple but effective bodyweight exercise. Holding the body (light as a feather) stiff as a board develops strength primarily in the core as well as the shoulders, arms, and glutes.

How to do the exercise:

Place the forearms on the ground with the elbows aligned below the shoulders, and arms parallel to the body at about shoulder-width distance. If flat palms bother your wrists, clasp your hands together. (Note: Any of the following plank variations can be performed with straight arms or in a forearm position.)

Common errors:

  • Collapsing the lower back. 
  • Reaching the butt to the sky.
  • Letting the head drop.
  • Forgetting to breathe. 
  • Focusing on the stop watch too much. 


Rachel Maynard