Stronger Where It Matters Most - Mens Health

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Stronger Where It Matters Most

Every muscle relies on your abs, hips, and lower back, a.k.a. your core. It's your base--and your center of attraction. Here's everything you need to sculpt a rock-solid midsection

By: Myatt Murphy, Workout by: Craig Friedman, M.S., A.T.C., C.S.C.S., Photographs by: Scott McDermott, Workout Photography by: Beth Bischoff

Things You Don't Know About Your Core

1. You can strengthen your core without moving a muscle. Whereas most muscles propel you, your core resists movement--for instance, to protect your spine when you twist your torso. So don't be surprised by how hard it is to stay still in this core workout. You're conditioning your core to do its job more effectively.

2. Slouching sabotages your six-pack. Training your core helps correct poor posture. But an hour a week of core work can't compensate for the 50 hours spent slumped over your keyboard. The fix: Stay tall through your hips and keep your head up and shoulder blades back and down all day long.

3. Core muscles contract first in every exercise. All the energy you exert originates in your torso, before being transferred to your arms and legs. So a weak core reduces the amount of force you're able to apply to a barbell. When you hit a plateau in presses, squats, or any other strength move, ask your-self if you're training your core as hard as you can.

Try These;

Side Bridge
Lie on your side with your forearm on the floor under your shoulder to prop you up, and your feet stacked. Contract your core and press your forearm against the floor to raise your hips until your body is straight from ankles to shoulders. Hold for 15 to 45 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Contract your abs and butt muscles forcefully to keep your body straight.

Plank with Diagonal Arm Lift
Assume a modified pushup position with your feet shoulder-width apart, forearms on the floor. Keeping your torso steady, raise your right arm for-ward and to the right, so that it points to 2 o'clock. Hold for 2 seconds, then lower and repeat with your left arm, raising it to 10 o'clock. That's one rep. Your elbows should be bent 90 degrees and directly under your shoulders.

Single-Leg Lowering
Lie on your back with your legs extended straight up. Keeping your legs straight, lower your left leg until your foot is 2 to 3 inches off the floor. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your right leg; that's one repetition. Think about pushing the bottom of your heel away from your hip as you lower your leg. Don't point your toes; keep your foot flexed toward you. Lead with your heel.

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Interesting article, Dylan.

Thom's picture

Interesting article, Dylan. You say in point #1 that the core "resists movement." That's part of the story. The abs are also designed to bring the pelvis and chest together. The abs are also designed to protect the internal organs. For years I've tried to train my abs to do all three purposes.

In point #3 you say "Core muscles contract first in every exercise." That's exactly right. That's why a buddy in high school convinced me that abs are mostly made of slow-twitch muscles.

For years I've been training my core in all 3 of these purposes. I'm now able to do high reps abs exercises (for stamina) and machine crunches (for strength). I've learned to toughen my abs to take lots of hard blows to protect my internal organs.

This article has helped me to see that I need to do more static or isometric exercises. I think that when I take punches I also do these. But I'll try the ball exercises.

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