5 Core Exercises You Need to Start Doing

5 Core Exercises You Need to Start Doing

Almost every exercise depends on core strength for optimum power and output, and combat sport is no different. But when we talk about core strength, we’re not talking about a ripped six-pack. Believe it or not, you can have one without the other - and if your performance and progression is your priority, focusing on properly strengthening your core muscles is far more beneficial than chiselling them! 

So how do you actually go about this? The core is a complex group of muscles that encompasses far more than just your abs. In fact, it refers to as many as 35 different muscle groups connecting the into the pelvis from the spine and hip area. So it’s safe to say that it’ll take more than planks and sit-ups to build an iron-cast core! But before diving straight into the first ab circuit tutorial that pops up on YouTube, it’s useful to get a bit more of an understanding as to what the core is so that you know which muscles to work and why.

The core explained 

“The core is the centre of gravity and where all movement begins.” - Robert Donatelli, PhD, PT

An in-depth explanation of the core is far beyond the scope of this article, but it’s broadly composed of four regions: back extensors, abdominals, lateral trunk muscles and hip muscles. The core acts as a stabiliser, meaning that its job is more often about resisting motion rather than producing force. Therefore, functional movements such as deadlifts, overhead squats and push-ups are extremely effective exercises for strengthening your core when performed correctly, rather than simply exercises that only target the narrow region of the abdominals (such as crunches). 

Understanding the core levels is a good way to put this into perspective:

Level 1: Static endurance strength 

  • e.g.: Planks and side planks

Level 2: Anti-rotational training

  • e.g.: Lateral bag drags and renegade rows

Level 3: Static trunk dynamic hips

  • E.g.: Suitcase deadlifts

Level 4: Rotational training

  • E.g.: Rotational snatch

These can be broken down even further, but the takeaway message is to ensure you include a variety of exercises into your training in order to strengthen your whole core.


Training tip: Slow down

Most fighting sports involve explosive bursts of output, so naturally you might think that this same pattern should be followed when doing other forms of training in order to be beneficial. But really, slowing down your exercises will have a huge impact on building core strength. Extending your time under tension places more stress on the muscles and helps build core coordination. 


Exercises to strengthen your core muscles

Now it’s time to take action! See below for our CMBT Training Centre Director Jesse Yada’s top exercises to strengthen your core and kick your training up a gear or two.

  • Toes to bar
  • Half Kneeling Pallof press
  • Exercise Ball Dead Bug
  • Kettlebell Rotational Swing
  • Landmine Twist

Toes to bar

  1. Start by hanging on a bar with hands shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your abs by posteriorly tilting your pelvis (imagine tucking your tail between your legs). 
  2. Engage your lats by squeezing shoulder blades together and lean back to make your chest face the bar. Make sure your head is behind your biceps.
  3. Begin to raise your legs as you actively pull the bar down with your hands. With bent or straight legs, try to touch the bar with your toes or shins. 
  4. Slowly lower, reset position and repeat.

Half-Kneeling Pallof Press

  1. Set the handle on a cable machine to chest height while in a kneeling position. 
  2. Start by getting down on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor (the knee that is on the same side as the machine will be down). You will want to be perpendicular to the cable machine. 
  3. Pull the handle out to your body far enough to slightly raise the weights. Hold the handle taut to your chest with both hands.
  4. Engage the core and slowly press out until your elbows lock out. Hold the position for a few seconds then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Do an equal amount of both knees.

Exercise Ball Dead Bug

  1. Start by laying on your back with a 90-degree bend at both the knees and hips. Reach your arms straight to the ceiling while pushing an exercise ball into your knees.
  2. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise by keeping the lumbar spine flat to the ground, this will engage your core. 
  3. Slowly lower one arm and the opposite leg straight out towards the floor while keeping the ball stable with the opposing arm and leg.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. 

Kettlebell Rotational Swing

  1. Start by holding a kettlebell in both hands with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. With your arms locked out and core engaged, start swinging the kettlebell while turning your chest, core and hips to one side. Make sure your feet rotate with no resistance (your feet will rotate as if you were throwing a hook).
  3. Swing to the other side and repeat in a pendulum motion.

Landmine Twist

  1. Load a bar into the landmine unit or wedge a bar into a corner with a towel around the end to avoid the bar slipping.
  2. Start by holding the other end of the bar straight out in front of you with feet shoulder-width apart and arms locked out.
  3. Make sure your core is engaged. Pivot your right foot inwards as you twist your torso and hips to the left, then come back to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat by twisting to the other side.

Incorporate these exercises into your strength training to help build a bulletproof core and increase your strength and power, improve mobility and reduce injury.

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