Got Core Strength?
Don’t waste your precious time on ineffective core exercises! Strength training for core muscles should focus on using the hips and shoulders from a standing position instead of rolling around like a turtle stuck on its back. Keep reading to learn more about your core and why the kettlebell windmill is a core exercise that you SHOULD be doing!
The Abdominal Crunch is a Waist of Time!
Many workout programs feature the abdominal crunch, and all of it’s different variations, with the mis-begotten intention of helping to strengthen specific core muscles. To understand how we should really be strengthening all of the muscles in our body, especially the core, we have to realize that these muscles are positioned to work when we are standing upright on our feet NOT lying on the ground.
We spend the first 9-to-14 months or so of our lives learning how to walk; it takes that long because all of the muscles that control our hips, shoulders, legs and spine have to develop the strength to operate as a single integrated system. That’s right, the muscles that control the body’s core are designed to produce the motion of walking and running which means that they should be used that way during exercise!
Core Muscles are the Transmission of the Body
In addition, the core can be considered the transmission of the body because it is responsible for transferring the forces from the ground, through the legs and trunk and out through the upper extremities. Effective core exercises should use movements that integrate the hips, trunk and shoulders in order to efficiently control and distribute the forces caused by upright movement and accelerated by gravity.
Just because we’ve always done something a certain way does NOT mean we need to blindly follow tradition, especially where there are more bio-mechanically effective ways to strengthen our core muscles. A good strength training workout for the core muscles is almost indistinguishable from a total body workout, the primary difference might be asymmetrical loading (using only one body-part at a time). Using only one arm or leg at a time is a simple, yet effective, strategy for engaging the muscles responsible for stabilizing your spine and hips while increasing the level of difficulty for core training. (TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF UNILATERAL TRAINING, READ THIS ARTICLE).
One non-traditional exercise for strengthening the muscles responsible for controlling movement around your body’s center of gravity, what we commonly call the core, is the
The Kettlebell Windmill
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, have your left foot forward at the 12 o’clock position, your right foot should be placed at about the 4 o’clock position – the toes on both your right and left feet should be pointing the same direction.
- Hold a kettlebell in your right hand so that it is straight in the air, hold your left arm by your side.
- To start the move, keep both knees slightly bent, turn your head to look up at your right arm and push back into your right hip, keep your spine long and straight with your eyes on your right hand as you hinge forward allowing the kettlebell to slowly push your upper-body towards the ground.
- Once you can no longer hinge forward on your hips (you will feel your spine start to move), push your hips forward and pull yourself back up to standing using your glutes. The movement speed should be slow and controlled, about two-to-four seconds in each direction.
- Complete four-to-six reps before switching sides, rest 30-45 seconds after both sides before the next set.
Start with two sets and work up to doing four sets on each side. Because the movement comes from the hips, not the spine, when learning the Windmill it is best to start with the weight in a low position so it pulls you down into the movement, once you feel comfortable with the hinging motion you can progress to holding the kettlebell in the right arm over your head – this will cause the weight to push you down into the movement as opposed to pulling you into the motion.
The purpose of core strength exercises should be to create a solid foundation for movement in the rest of the body. When it comes to the most effective exercises for strengthening your core muscles here’s a little tip: your hips and shoulders connect to one another via the core muscles, therefore, any exercises to truly strengthen your core should be done in a standing position and involve the hips and shoulders working together in a coordinated, synergistic manner. One thing about the Kettlebell Windmill is that you will notice that you are not only getting stronger, but moving better as well, which is a definite win-win.
To Learn More…
Total Body Core Training, online education course; $67
Learn the science of exercise program design and how to build a stronger body by first creating the foundation of a strong core. The course includes a progressively challenging exercise program that will keep you working out all year long. 0.4 ACE, 0.5 NASM and 5 AFAA CECs
Functional Core Training e-book; $7
Explains how to build a strong body starting with your core muscles.
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