The days of doing crunches after crunches after crunches are over. Researchers like Dr. Stuart McGill has shown over and over again that repetitive flexion of the spine will eventually lead to you having a bad back – so stop doing it. Unfortunately these thoughts and feelings haven’t been heard far and wide and too many people are still doing core exercises that are either worthless or a ticking time bomb.
Year and years ago you could find rollout wheels on late night infomercials being sold by some annoying salesman. Then they went away for a long time to be forgot about. Just like the Palloff press, rollout variations are becoming more popular over the last 5 or so years. First start with the swiss ball, then move to a smaller ab wheel. The smaller the ball/wheel, the harder the exercise becomes. This, by the way, is a great progression for someone leading up to getting into the body saw.
Probably my favorite and go to move when I’m looking for a quick core exercise in-between my compound movements. A plank on steroids. Simply hold your plank position with a tight core while sliding back and forth on your forearms. Reach as far back as you can to make it more effective. Be warned though, they aren’t for beginners and they aren’t nearly as easy as some people make them look.
Old reliable. The front/side plank is boring to most people but they are still one of the most effective core exercises you can do. I think one of the reasons people get bored with planks is because they don’t know how to properly progress them. From a progression standpoint, going from a regular plank to a feet elevated plank is an easy progression. Still easy? Keep the feet elevated and put a plate on your back are grab a kettlebell to hold during the side plank. Still to easy? Add more weight. Still not tough enough? Add some front/side plank rows. And by the way, doing planks for 60+ seconds is boring. Stick with 20-35 seconds and when that’s too easy move on to a tougher progression.
Palloff Press Variations
5 years ago the idea of a Palloff press was confined to a small group of strength coaches doing them with their teams or at their facilities. There was no way you would see anyone doing them in a typical big box gym. Still, too many trainers and trainees in the big box gyms are still missing the boat on the Palloff press. Progress from tall kneeling to half kneeling, to standing and then finally standing on one leg. Perform presses on one day then come back with some holds later in the week, both being extremely effective.
What do all these exercises have in common? A couple of things.
One, most people don’t do them and have no idea how effective and worthwhile these exercises are. Take these four core exercises for a spin for the next month or two and I’m willing to bet your core will be better than it ever has before.
Two, zero flexion of the spine in any of these exercises, making them a great alternative to crunches and other worthless core exercises. No flexion based exercises in this program. They aren’t good for long-term health of your back and there are plenty of ways to train your core effectively without performing any type of flexion.
Third, these exercises will spice up your training. Whether you care or not about the possible long-term health of your back or not, and you should by the way, these exercises can add some variety to your core training. There is nothing more boring than doing the same thing, over and over again. Spice it up and have more fun in the gym.