How to Improve Core Stability Part 4: Functional Exercises

Amelia Phillips

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This is part 4 of a 4 part series on the benefits of improving your core stability, and how you can improve yours.

By now you’ve mastered core stability part 1, core stability part 2, and core stability part 3 and you are ready to ramp it up some more. Try the plank and its variations. It is one of the best exercises to strengthen your core and translates into almost every movement.

The reason why the plank is so effective is because it teaches the stabilizers of the abdominals and back to work together, in unison, creating a much stronger core. It is very important that your back and abdominals work together, and are of similar strength. Think of it like the rigging wires of a sailing boat mast, if one side is loose, you would have and unstable, crooked mast. Well it’s the same with your spine, if your abs are weak and your back is tight, how is your spine going to be aligned?

Do these exercises 2 – 4 times per week for a stronger, more coordinated core.

The basic plank: Hold for 2 min or until you lose form

  • Head, shoulders and butt are all in the one line (balance a broomstick along your spine) with a small gap in your lower back, no thicker than your hand. This is called Spinal Neutral.
  • Draw your belly button in toward your spine. Don’t stick your tummy out.
  • Breath normally
  • Beginners may need to start on their knees. Try seconds on each.

Side Plank: Hold for 30sec, 4 reps each side

  • Start by lying sideways on the floor, ensuring your elbow is directly below your shoulder, and your body is in a straight line
  • Lift your hips up nice and high. The side closest to the floor is the working side, and the higher your hips, the harder it is.
  • Hold for 30 sec, repeat 4 reps each side, coming down for a 10sec break in between.

Side Plank Variation: Hold for 30sec, 4 reps each side

  • Same exercise, but instead of having your elbow on the ground, push up onto your hand.
  • Stretch the opposite hand in the air and look up.
  • Put your top foot behind you for balance, or for a challenge rest it on top of your other foot.
  • Push your hips up nice and high
  • Draw the belly button into your spine
  • Make sure your body stays in one straight line
  • Lift your leg if you want, or you can just hold static
  • Hold for 30sec, 4 reps each side

Plank on the ball – feet on ball: Hold for 2 min or until you lose form

  • Use all the same principles as the basic plank, maintaining spinal neutral.
  • The closer the ball is to your body, the easier the exercise and vice versa.
  • Try bending your knees and rolling the ball in and out for more abdominal recruitment
  • See if you can take one foot off ball balance on one leg
  • Hold for 2 min or until you lose form

Plank on the ball – Elbows on ball: Hold for 2 min or 2xsets of 12 elbow rolls

  • Maintain spinal neutral and be sure not to round shoulders
  • Elbows stay directly underneath shoulders for static hold
  • Or,
  • Try rolling the ball away from you with your elbows. The further the ball is from your body, the more strain on your core.
  • You can roll fast or slow. The diagram is fast.
  • Hold for 2 mins or 2 x sets of 12 elbow rolls.

Do you have any core exercises that you love, or possibly hate? I’d love to hear about them.

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