How to Improve Core Stability Part 4: Functional Exercises

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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  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Harvey Adams

    Wow who ever thought the plank had so many variations! You talk about sucking in your belly button, can you explain why thats better than bearing down and pushing it out?

  • http://blog.freefitnesstips.co.uk/stomach-toning-exercises.html Tom Parker – Free Fitness Tips

    I knew about the first two but have never seen the other variations. Always good to get some new abdominal exercises and even better if they help with core stability too.

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Tom,
    Yes abs can be such a bore, so what better way to spice things up than throw in some plank variations. Even if you feel like a fool when you fall off the ball.. who me? Never!!!
    Good to hear from you,
    Amelia

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Harvey,

    Sucking in your belly button increases intra abdominal pressure (IAP) which acts as a stabilizer to the spine. By drawing in your belly, button, the stomach and back muscles act like a corset to hold your spine in place.
    Alternatively, pushing your tummy out or bearing outwards on a weight belt may feel like you are increasing pressure but it is not effectively increasing your stability.
    Hope that helps,
    Amelia

  • Pingback: Abdominal Exercises: Exercise Your Oblique Muscles to Get Rid of the Love Handles

  • http://fitnessblackbook.com Rusty – Fitness Black Book

    Amelia,

    Great post and nice site…I’m friends with Scott and Mike over at LifeSpotlight and I saw your comment.

    Anyway…I have done nothing but planks for my abs for the past 6 years and have an extremely sharp 6-pack these days. What I really like about planks is that it is an isometric movement which builds definition without mass.

    Another benefit to this exercise is that it is good for the spine. People who have suffered a back injury, like myself, have to be extremely careful that they don’t irritate their back with crunches.

    Thanks for spreading the word about this wonderful exercise. You will help a lot of people get a firm mid-section without the injury potential that so many other ab movements bring.

    Cheers,

    Rusty

  • http://www.ameliaburton.com.au Amelia Burton

    Hi Rusty,
    Yes I saw your abs on your website and yes I’d wash my clothes on that washboard!!!!
    I love your website and encourage my readers to visit it http://fitnessblackbook.com/

    We should chat some more…
    Amelia

  • Pingback: Abdominal Exercises: Exercise Your Oblique Muscles to Get Rid of the Love Handles | Lose Weight Steps

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  • Karen Patrick

    This core exercises surprised me. I thought it was enough to just do ab crunches and sit ups. NFA trust

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