Have you noticed that almost every movement you do always starts at the center of your body? Whether its walking, jumping or lifting weights of any kind, the muscles of the hip area are always first. They always initiate.Everything starts at the hips and lifting heavy stuff is impossible without having a strong core to begin with.
Your core is comprised of your hips, lower back and abdominal wall. It is the bridge between your upper and lower bodies. Having a strong core will not only dramatically enhance your performance in any kind of sports and physical activity. It will also improve your resistance against injuries in that area of your body. So developing a strong core should be one your most prized goals in training. It will pay off in stronger lifts, a healthier body for life – and rock hard abs.
Strengthen Your Core: Abdominals, Lower Back & Hip Flexors
The best way to train the muscles of the hips, glutes, lower back and abdominals is, of course, by including full-body compound exercises for the lower body like squats and deadlifts in your training program. Variations of them are also great and can have additional benefits. For example, the front squat will work your abs heavily and the Romanian deadlift will work your lower back muscles harder than the regular deadlift.
But in addition to these compound movements there are a handful of extra exercises that you can (and should) easily include into any workout program.
These exercises will target your core muscles directly:
Leg Raises (hanging)PlankRenegade Dumbbell RowsBack Extensions
Throw in some targeted core work with these at the end of your regular workouts.
3 x 10-15 reps
If you find straight leg raises too difficult yet, start by lifting your knees.
2 x 60 seconds
The plank is a simple but very valuable exercise that works your inner ab muscles that support the spine (transversus abdominis). Finish off your workout by holding a plank twice for 60 seconds. To make the exercise harder, try holding it up to 3 or even 5 minutes. Or upgrade to Renegade dumbbell rows.
Renegade Dumbbell Rows
3 x 10-15 reps (10 lbs)
To make the exercise harder, simply use heavier dumbbells.
3 x 10-15 reps
Back extensions work your erector spinae, the column of muscles that run alongside your spine. They are a great support exercise to strengthen your lower back, an area which is prone to injury for many people. If you need added resistance, hold a dumbbell or weight plate close to your chest.
No Belts, Please!
Sometimes you can see guys at the gym spending their entire workouts wearing lifting belts. Not only is this unnecessary, it’s also a big mistake. Because your best “belt” should be a strong set of lower-back and abdominal muscles that protect your lower torso naturally. Wearing a belt all the time prevents your body from building that protective extra layer of muscle and strength. The only situation where you should always wear a belt is when attempting heavy maximum lifts in big exercises – in order to protect your abdominal area and spine from inner pressure.
Serious core work will strengthen your glutes, abs, lower back and hips. The main payoff will be increased strength, better performance and a seriously improved resistance against injuries in that area of your body.
And there’s a another big bonus:
If you’re thinking six-pack abs, then be rest assured that developing a strong mid-section is the best thing you can do to build up the musculature for sixpack abs. Once your core is strong and well-developed, all what’s left to do is to get rid of any layer of bodyfat still covering it and – voilá – an impressive set of sixpack abs will magically appear.