The core’s (your body’s mid section) main functions are to stabilize the trunk of the body and to help transfer force from the lower to the upper body. Training the core for these proper functions are different than training to have six pack abs. When training for the aesthetics (look) of your abs it is more about spinal flexion (think of a sit up or leg raise). When training the core, you can think of either transferring force such as in a medicine ball throw or resisting motion as in a farmer’s carry or a paloff press (as shown by Dr. John Rusin here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ_HhXY3-p0 ). In my programming I tend to include more of the resisting motion type of exercises as I believe they are far more beneficial (more bang for you buck’!).

In training your body to resist the loads placed upon it and having a rigid trunk training your core to work as a team instead of individually can help prevent back pain as well as help you get stronger in your main lifts. There are many ways to train these “anti-movements”. Examples include anti-flexion, anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-literal flexion movements.

  1. During anti-flexion exercises, you have to keep from bending forward and would include most variations of your squats and deadlifts.

  2. During anti-extension, you resist from arching backwards. Exercises in this category would include planking variations.

  3. With anti-rotation you are resisting rotation. This would include single arm bench presses or paloff presses with a resistance band or cable. 

  4. The last type is anti-lateral flexion, which requires you to resist being pulled down to the side. This would include excises such as suitcase carries and side planks.

There are numerous ways to train the core and this is just a drop in the bucket for ideas. Use your imagination and you can come up with laundry list of ideas. Adding some of these variations will go a long way in terms of strength gains and resiliency to injury.

AUTHOR: JAMES RAYFIELD, BS, CSCS