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The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

Strengthen your midline and see your abs pop up.

What is the best core exercise you’re not doing or haven’t done in a long time? And how can we predict that you’re not currently doing this? Keep scrolling to find out.

A robust core serves as the cornerstone of overall physical well-being, influencing various aspects of our daily activities and athletic performance. At its essence, the core encompasses the muscles in the abdomen, lower back, pelvis, and hips, working collectively to provide stability, balance, and support for the entire body. A strong core is pivotal in maintaining proper posture, preventing chronic back pain, and supporting the spine during weight-bearing activities. Without a solid core foundation, the body is prone to compensatory movements and imbalances, increasing the risk of injuries in both mundane tasks and more strenuous physical endeavours.

Having a strong core is a game-changer. It serves as the central link connecting the upper and lower body, facilitating coordinated movements and optimal force transfer. Whether it’s executing powerful lifts in the gym, sprinting on the track, or engaging in dynamic sports, a stable core ensures efficient energy transmission, reducing the strain on individual muscle groups. Athletes with a well-conditioned core are better equipped to generate force, maintain balance, and execute precise movements, ultimately enhancing their overall athletic prowess.

woman smiles in fitness gear with abs musclesSource: dusan jovic on Unsplash

A strong core also contributes significantly to functional daily activities. From bending over to pick up groceries to sitting at a desk for extended periods, core strength plays a crucial role in preventing fatigue and maintaining proper body mechanics. Furthermore, a robust core supports spinal health, reducing the likelihood of developing chronic back pain and promoting long-term well-being. In essence, cultivating core strength transcends the aesthetic appeal of toned abdominals; it is a holistic investment in physical resilience, injury prevention, and improved quality of life.

To find out what is the best core exercise you’re not doing, we turn to the expertise of Dr Aaron Horschig, a physical therapist, coach, and creator of Squat University. He is one of the most respected authorities when it comes to squatting and everything related to your stance and knees, but he often dives into other functional fitness questions in his YouTube channel.

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The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

Let’s delve into the discussion of the optimal core exercise that Aaron Horschig believes many individuals are neglecting.

In the realm of gym exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, and pushes, the predominant movement occurs in the sagittal plane—up and down. This repetitive motion in a singular plane can potentially overlook the importance of incorporating exercises that challenge the body in the frontal or side-to-side plane. Neglecting frontal plane mechanics may leave individuals susceptible to weak links that compromise performance and increase the risk of injuries.

Imagine executing a snatch and, due to the weight or other factors, finding oneself slightly off balance, necessitating a step to regain stability. In such instances, challenging the frontal plane becomes crucial. Even the act of walking out of a heavy squat involves continuous challenges to frontal plane mechanics. Insufficient strength and stability in this plane can elevate the risk of injury and hinder overall performance.

So, how does one address frontal plane stability effectively? Aaron Horschig suggests incorporating carries into your routine. Grabbing a relatively light kettlebell or dumbbell is all you need. The challenge here isn’t about lifting heavy weights; rather, it’s about maintaining stability in the frontal plane. Hold the weight while keeping an upright posture, placing one finger at your side. Employ diaphragmatic breathing—avoid drawing in your abdomen excessively. Instead, breathe and push the hand sideways to create optimal stability for various movements, including squats, deadlifts, and cleans.

Lucas Parker Crossfit athlete farmer's carries weights outside by the sea
CrossFit Games Athlete Lucas Parker using Farmer’s Carries to improve his strength, stability and mental toughness.

The next step involves walking while holding the weight. Focus on maintaining the stability of the frontal plane throughout, paying attention to your breath and ensuring that your core remains engaged. Periodically check the stiffness by poking your side with a finger.

During this process, a crucial aspect is the interplay between muscles. For instance, the glute medius on the stance leg and the ql (muscle in the low back) on the opposite side work in tandem to keep the pelvis level. This prevents the pelvis from dropping and ensures the smooth movement of the leg.

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Programming-wise, Aaron recommends doing three to four rounds of 45 seconds to a minute for optimal results. The goal is not to overwhelm yourself with volume but to consistently integrate frontal plane stability work into your routine.

If you find that the weights you have are limited, there’s an option to increase the challenge. Holding the weight upside down, with the load in the bell area, demands greater full-body linkage. This variation emphasizes the importance of connecting the entire body rather than isolating the core. The objective is to enhance functional core stability, translating to improved performance in squats, deadlifts, and cleans. Additionally, it provides a safety net for moments when you might find yourself out of position, allowing you to step confidently and maintain stability.

male and female crossfitters farmer's Carry exercise outside

Aaron emphasizes that the suitcase carry, as described, is a fundamental exercise for core development. It’s not something that needs to be done daily, but incorporating it once or twice a week, with sessions lasting 45 seconds to a minute, can yield significant benefits. By targeting the frontal plane, often overlooked in traditional training, this exercise addresses a common weak link in people’s overall fitness.

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In conclusion, the suitcase carry stands out as one of Aaron Horschig’s favourite core exercises. This often-overlooked gem has been endorsed by fitness experts like Dr. Stuart McGill and Brian Carroll, adding credibility to its effectiveness. By integrating exercises that challenge the frontal plane, individuals can fortify their core, reducing the risk of injuries and enhancing overall functional stability. So, in the world of core workouts, the suitcase carry emerges as a must-have, offering a unique and valuable dimension to comprehensive training programs.

For a deeper understand of the suitcase carry, the best core exercise you’re not doing, watch the full video below and Horschig’s explanation.

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