No matter who you ask, the undeniable source of an athlete’s strength lies in his core muscles. Comprised of your abdominals, lower back and obliques, a strong core provides stability and balance to almost all movement, making you a more efficient athlete while also reducing your risk of injury. However, it’s tempting to forgo a tough core workout for less punishing exercises that work your vanity muscles. Rather than skip out on this important muscle group, we propose you make everyday core day (like Nate Robinson here). These classic exercises have been modified to push your core strength to its limits while sculpting other muscle groups at the same time—efficiency at its finest.
Single leg straight-leg deadlift
This one-legged modification of the straight-leg deadlift forces you to use your core muscles to keep your balance while getting a lower-body workout in. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell in either hand. Start standing with your feet together, allowing the weights to hang just in front of your legs. Keeping your back straight and core tight, bend at the hips to lower your chest and shoulders until the weights just touch the ground (you should feel a mild stretch in your hamstring). Meanwhile, raise one leg behind you, ensuring it stays straight while your supporting leg bends slightly at the knee. Return to the first position, then switch legs on the next repetition.
Kneeling single arm hammer curls
Never thought you’d combine an arm workout with a core exercise, eh? Kneeling single arm curls attack all parts of your core while you perform a classic biceps exercise. Start kneeling with a dumbbell in each hand hanging at your sides.Holding the barbell vertically like a hammer, lock your elbow and curl the weight until there’s just a tennis ball-sized space between your biceps and the weight. Lower it to the starting position and repeat using the other arm.
Hanging leg raises
You’ll feel hanging leg raises in your core, but they’ll also improve your grip, press movements and, yes, even your pull-ups—think of them as a core exercise with benefits. Start off by hanging from a pull-up bar. Keeping your legs straight, slowly raise them in front of you until you hit about 90 degrees and squeeze your core. Then, slowly lower them to the starting position. If you want to up the ante on your obliques, raise your legs about 30 degrees to either side for every leg raise straight ahead of you.
Single-arm shoulder press
The shoulder press traditionally utilizes two weights that are raised overhead, but by knocking one out of the equation, the exercise pulls double duty by engaging your core muscles to keep you standing tall. From a standing position with your feet together (giving you a smaller centre of gravity), start by bringing a dumbbell to shoulder height using an inward-facing grip. Tightening your core—especially your obliques so you don’t lean to one side—lift the weight to the ceiling, then return to the starting position to complete the rep. Switch arms after each set.
Straight-arm dumbbell pullovers
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