Crunch Free Core Exercise Program


Want a stronger core? Are you crunched out? Don’t know what exercises to do next? I have the answer. Core exercise programs are not the same as “doing abs.” This article is here to help you get off the floor and perform a crunch-free core exercise program that can be achieved by performing a plank series and adding rotational and anti-rotational exercises to strengthen the core.

What Makes Up Our Core

First, let’s talk about the core and what makes up our core. The core, in my opinion, is anything attached to the pelvis, assisting in maintaining a neutral spine and pelvis. This includes the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, longissimus, glutes, and diaphragm. The body works like a system or a chain, working together, not individually. While each muscle of the core has a unique responsibility, they work together with other groups to make up the core. While crunches have stood the test of time, they are only focused on one other many muscle groups of the core. So how do I work all these muscles at the same time as a system?

What is a Plank?

Second, everyone knows what a plank is. Planks are a great core strengthening exercise when done correctly, but ask yourself this, are you doing them correctly? How long should you hold a plank? How do you keep it fresh so you don’t sleep through your planks? A plank is a simple form of a pillar exercise that is to hold the spine in neutral while keeping your core tight for a period of time. Keeping the spine neutral can be difficult for many. Simple mistakes include drooping heads and, more commonly, the sag of the lower back when fatigue sets in. Remember that quality movements are always better than quantity. Following these simple rules when beginning a plank regiment.

How to Perform A Plank

Start from knees and elbows. If you are able to hold for a minute, progress to elbows and toes. Work your way to a minute-and-a-half hold, then add movement. This can be as simple as arm movements, leg movements, both extremity movements, and then you can add slides and walks and such. Don’t forget that side planks are a great way to add variety as well. Remember, you must maintain a neutral spine in order to progress; otherwise, the exercise is worthless.

And don’t forget to get up off the floor! Performing rotation and anti-rotation exercises are very important. Working all three planes of motion available is vital. The spine is a series of joints working together to not only act as a supportive structure but also allows movement in the three planes of motion. Rotational exercises include cable chops (up and down), lawnmowers, battle rope rainbows, rotational swings with sandbags or dumbbells, lunges with a rotation, landmine rotations, and Turkish get-ups.

Pillar Exercises

Anti-rotational exercises are less traditional but equally important when improving core strength and conditioning. These exercises are fondly referred to by myself as pillar exercises, designed to build stability and strength to prevent injury with everyday types of activities. Preventing rotation means that you are able to resist forces acting on the body that will try to rotate or move it in ways that may not be safe. Examples of pillar or anti-rotational exercises are Single leg deadlifts (both stiff leg and traditional deadlifts), Single arm inverted rows off a suspension trainer, anti-rotational push-pulls with a cable or band, anti-rotational plank pulls, Palloff press with cable or bands, and weighted carries for a distance over time.

Crunches have been the go-to for many when trying to improve core strength but these only work one plane of motion. I advise you to get off the floor and add these types of activities to your core exercise program and work all three planes of motion to help prevent possible injury. A strong core will assist you when carrying heavy items, lifting items, pushing or pulling heavy items, or simply performing your favorite fitness activities. And if you’re looking to get one-on-one personal training or sports performance coaching in the West Valley, contact the FAST Glendale today.

Kyle Decker

ATC, CSCS | Kyle enjoys helping athletes of all competition levels reach their goals. He has worked with the Phoenix Suns, Major League Baseball teams, and high school athletes and spent two years in Minor League Baseball. Glendale location

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