7 Core Training Exercises For The Everyday Adventurer

To put it simply, a weak midsection is no bueno.

By: Jen Weir
September 14, 2015

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Your core is the central hub of all movement – the muscles of your torso and hips work together to transfer energy throughout your body. A stable core will improve dynamic stability of the back, hips and legs. You'll also be more aware of your body position and posture while running, hiking, climbing, slacklining or doing whatever it is you love to do.

To put it simply, a weak midsection is no bueno. Poor core strength can provoke unnecessary and inefficient movement in other parts of the body, while also failing to provide adequate reinforcement for your spine. You can have the sickest gear out there but if your core sucks, your performance will suck – not to mention you’ll be at a heightened risk for back pain and injury.

Photo: Katch Silva

If you think you’re covered because you already crank out a couple hundred sit-ups a day, think again. Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, recently published research that found isometric core exercises (think planks) to be, by far, superior to their dynamic counterparts (crunches and sit-ups) in muscle activation, strength improvements, and spine stability in all planes of motion. Previous research has shown isometric exercises to also be a safer alternative for the vertebrae of the spine and neck.

If you’ve failed up until now to give your core the attention it demands, it’s time to get crackin’. Whether you’re hitting the trail, hitting the road or clipping into your pedals, take a few minutes to work your core before your next excursion. Choose three or four different exercises out of the following list to perform four times per week. Begin with three to five rounds of the exercises back-to-back, holding each position for 10 seconds. As your strength and endurance improve, continue to hold for 10 seconds at a time but increase your number or repetitions for a greater challenge.

Photo: Cameron Gardner

1. Farmer’s Walk

Hold a relatively heavy weight or kettlebell in one hand with your arm extended at your side or, for a greater challenge, bend your elbow and hold the weight at shoulder height. A large rock or your loaded pack will also work if you don’t have access to weights. Stiffen your core and, keeping your torso as upright as possible, simply walk as far as you can in 10 seconds. Switch hands and return to the starting position.

2. Plank

Begin in push-up position then lower down onto your elbows. Stabilize your abdomen and squeeze your glutes to ensure your body is in a straight line from shoulders to heels. For a greater challenge, wear your loaded pack during the exercise or lift one foot off the ground, alternating legs every 2 to 5 seconds.

Photo: Kevin Kaminski

3. Glute Bridge

Lie face up on the floor with your arms relaxed at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your abdomen, squeeze your glutes and press through your heels to lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

4. Side Plank

Lie on your right side with your right elbow supporting your upper body and your hips, legs and feet stacked. Place your left hand on your left hip or behind your head. Stabilize your core and lift your hips off the floor. Once again, you’re looking for that straight line. Hold for 10 seconds then repeat the plank with your left side.

Photo: Christin Healey

5. Yoga Boat

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Stiffen and straighten your torso, and slowly lean backward to lift your feet off the floor. Lift until your shins are parallel with the floor, your back is straight and your hips are flexed to ninety degrees. Position your arms out to the front or above your head, whichever is most comfortable. To increase the difficulty, bring your hands together and slowly rotate your torso from side-to-side while maintaining the boat pose.

6. Staggered Hand Push-up

Begin in push-up position but move one hand back so that it’s between your chest and naval, keep the other one in the traditional position. From here simply crank out as many push-ups as you can in 10 seconds. On the next set, move the opposite arm to the lower position. To challenge yourself further, wear your loaded pack or bring a knee toward your armpit, alternating legs with each rep.

7. Warrior III

Stand facing forward with your legs staggered, core activated and arms extended overhead. Lower down into a lunge and stretch your arms forward. Simultaneously straighten your front leg as you lift your back leg off the floor. Reach forward as you lift and extend your back leg until you form a straight line from your hands to your heel. This requires some flexibility so if you can’t lift your leg high enough, don’t worry – just keep working at it, you’ll get there. Your weight should be centered on the heel of your supporting leg so that it transfers up into your hip. Gaze at the floor as you hold the position. Switch supporting legs with the next set.

Photo: Mike Fennell

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