As I mentioned in Part One of this series, one of the major jobs of our core muscles is to keep our body from turning (rotating) when stresses such as gravity and force pull at us. Failure to resist this rotation can strain overworked muscles and cause pain from our knees to the necks.
Today I am going to discuss some of the exercises we can do to strengthen our resistance to rotation. While they sound familiar – and you may already be doing a version of them- note the important “keying” features of each.
1. The Plank. Many fitness bloggers have been going for time on stable planks. Not completely necessary. While strengthening your erector spinea through a stable hold, it’s much more beneficial – after you can hold a 1-2 minute plank- to add some movement in and challenge that anti-rotation element of core strength.
First, while holding the basic plank position, try to keep the hips parallel to the floor while you touch first one knee down to the ground, then the other. This move can be expanded as you get stronger. Note all the variations I perform on this older video:
2. Bridge. The reverse of the plank, the bridge works the posterior chain and the pelvic floor. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Softly tilt your pelvis forward, flattening your lower back near the floor. While your pelvis remains tilted, bridge your hips upward creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulder. Your abs are tight; squeeze your butt as if you are holding a quarter between the 2 cheeks.
Hold this position for 30 to 90 seconds. Return to the floor and repeat 3-5 times.
When you can accomplish this task for 90 seconds – 3-5 times- then add some motion. First lift one leg so the knees remain together, but the “free” leg extends completely out. Second, move that leg down to parallel to the ground then back up even with the support knee.
There are even more progressions you can search for on YouTube, or ask me and I can provide a few fun challenges for you.
3. Bird Dogs Many gals do this exercise, but I fear most are doing it wrong. This SHOULD be one of the hardest exercises you can perform -a true challenge of your core.
Get on hands and knees, then slowly lift up one arm and the opposite leg until they are parallel to the ground. Keep your hips parallel too – that’s the real challenge. Your back, hips, arm and leg should be a level tabletop. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then slowly reverse arms and legs. Make sure that your hips and ribs never move from parallel. The movement to extend your arms and legs come from the shoulder and hip only.
4. ClamShells These work the outer hip and the inner/outer thigh. Lie on your side against a wall. Keep your head, shoulder, hips and feet touching the wall, with your knees bent. Squeeze your buns, lifting the top leg up. It will look like a clamshell opening. Hold the squeeze at the top for a count of 5, then relax the leg down. Fifteen squeeze and holds on each side, making sure to keep your head, shoulders, hips and feet in line with the wall.
5. Pallof Press Now that we’ve worked the lower part of the core, it’s time for a challenge to the upper core. Nothing does this quite like a set of Pallof Press. These are best performed at a cable station or at home using a stretchy band. Wrap the band around a stable foundation and hold onto the handle – or at the cable station set the rack at waist height.
Stand away from the stable foundation/cable stand putting the cable under tension with the handle held tightly at waist level. Now turn 90 degrees, to that the cable is running along one arm. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Now push your arms away from your body. Keep your body firm and resist the temptation to turn toward the foundation/cable stand. You will feel this in both obliques and in your abs.
Hold the press for 3-5 seconds then slowly bring the handle back toward your body. 10-15 reps on each side, and 2-3 sets. If this sounds confusing, check YouTube to find video details of this exercise.
There you go. Five different ways to work the anti-rotation component of your core -one of its primary functions in the real world.
Have questions? Hit me up in the comments.