Posted On May 9, 2020
The core is perhaps the most important part of the body and is made up of a range of different muscles around the torso and hips. Largely, they can be broken down into the abdominal muscles, back stabilisers, and hip stabilisers.
It’s important to recognise that it’s not just about abs! Even though training abs can get you the most aesthetically pleasing results – it’s important, even necessary to – balance core training. Just like any other set of antagonist muscles, training only one side of the equation will lead to imbalances and weakness.
Training chest without back, for example is counterproductive; training upper body without training legs will bring your body out of balance. The same logic applies to training abs without hitting obliques and lower back – your not balancing your training!
6 pack muscles – The abdomal muscles
The abdominal muscles are commonly associated with 6 pack abs. Yes, they’re damned good looking. But they can also be skewed and gross, the result of poor training!
The rectus abdominus – is essentially the 6 pack. It’s the most obvious and dominant of the abdominal muscles. The obliques are the side abdominal muscles that cradle the mid-section like shark gills. The transverse abdominus is an internal muscle that has no aesthetic appeal but that nevertheless is super important for core stability.
Erectus spinae and the spine stabilisers
Erectus spinae can be thought of as 2 taught ropes that run on either side of the spine. They are made up of several smaller muscles that contribute to back extension and rotation. These muscles work antagonistically to the inward ‘crunching’ of torso flexion generated by the rectus abdominus.
These muscles are largely associated with lower back strength, and their weakness can cause back pain. Conversely, when they are super tight they can restrict movement and can cause aches.
The glutes and hip flexors
The hips play a major role in the core as they act as a second bastion of stability around the mid body. The glutes are comprised of 3 muscles, the biggest of which is the gluteus maximus. They are commonly associated with explosive hip extension – essential for jumping! However the smaller glute muscles also have other roles such as external rotation of the legs.
Hip flexors are comprised of the illiosoas (several muscles that have attachments on your pelvis, femur and spine), and the rectus femoris (the largest quadricep muscle). These muscles help bring the legs up and flex the hips. They work antagonistically to the glutes and are often tight due to modern sedentary lifestyles.
Core training best practices
Generally, the best core exercises are done with bodyweight only. Despite what the fitness industry would have you believe, it’s not necessary to use their absurd arsenal of toys. Fitness equipment like the BOSU and Swiss Ball, are great tools for beginners, don’t get me wrong. However, at the advanced level, all the possible exercises they allow for are far too easy.
Bodyweight exercises allow for a much wider range of possibilities, from easy to extreme. The rest of this blog post will be dedicated to running through 2 core workouts. The first will be tailored for beginners, while the second will be an advanced core workout.
The workouts will be divided by way of the 3 types of core muscles already mentioned: abdominal muscles, back stabilisers, and hip stabilisers.
Hip flexors will be left out because – they are usually tight due to the high volumes of sitting we do, but also because they are usually engaged to some capacity in ab exercises where the legs are suspended in the air.
Beginner calisthenics ab workout
Let’s start with abs, as that’s probably why you’re here! As a beginner it can be difficult to work abs as every exercise can seem far too hard. This is likely because:
a) If you don’t exercise, chances are you don’t use your abs at all. Unlike other muscle groups that are used on a daily basis, abs are mostly stabilisers and are not used to vigorous activation.
b) You’re throwing yourself into the deep end without adjusting your exercise routine.
Basic principles to make ab exercises easier
1. Keep lever length short – that is, bend your legs! The more extended your legs are the more work your abs have to do to keep them from touching the ground.
2. Stay away from 90 degrees. When you are perpendicular to the ground you will experience the most pull from gravity. As a beginner this can be too much for your abs. Essentially just don’t go all the way down on tough exercises!
Best beginner ab exercise
The best beginner ab exercise is the dead bug. This exercise is great for teaching you body tension and working the rectus abdominus and to a smaller extent the hip flexors.
Lie down on your back, bring your shoulders and feet off the ground. Bend your arms and legs and curl up into a ball. Then straighten opposite arm and leg and bring them close to the ground. Make sure your lower back remains on the ground – there should be no space between your back and the floor.
Alternate Lowering of Opposite Limbs
Best beginner lower back exercise
The best beginner lower back exercise is the bird dog. This is a yoga exercise and is essentially the reverse of the dead bug. The exercise is performed in the all 4’s position.
Opposite limbs come up and can be alternated. To make the exercise more challenging instead of coming down every time, you should try to touch your elbow to your knee and come back up without resting.
Alternate Raising of Opposite Limbs
Best beginner glute exercise
The best beginner glute exercise is the glute bridge. The glute bridge is performed from the back. Legs should be bent and placed shoulder width apart. The idea is to bring your hips off the ground as high as you can.
Squeeze for 3 seconds and then come back down. To maximise glute engagement externally rotate your knees when you come up.
This is a exercise can be made more difficult by elevating the legs onto a platform, or by putting a resistance band around your legs.
Best advanced ab exercise
The best advanced ab exercise is the dish rocks exercise. The dish position is achieved by taking the shoulders and feet off the ground while on your back. Rocking is achieved by bringing the lower body up and then the upper body up like a seesaw (and not coming up together). Make sure your lower back stays on the ground.
Best advanced lower back exercise
The best advanced lower back exercise is the super man rocks exercise. This exercise is essentially the opposite of the dish rocks exercise, in that you are rocking on your stomach instead of your back. Again, hands and feet off the ground and rock like a seesaw.
Best advanced glute exercise
The back support is the best advanced glute exercise. To achieve the back support position sit down on the ground and lift your body up by stratening your arms and legs and bring your hips to the sky.
When done correctly, the back support is an insane glute exercise. To get the most out of it try to bring your feet out slight beyond shoulder width and externally rotate your knees!
What Is The Best Time Of The Day To Exercise For Weight Loss And Muscle Growth?21MARCH, 2021The best time to exercise is at 7am or 7pm - but it depends on the individual! There is heavy debate about when you should exercise. This is further complicated by how...
Complete Guide To Building Strength For The Handstand Push Up [VIDEO]3FEBRUARY, 2021The handstand push up is the ultimate bodyweight shoulder exercise and requires exceptional strength and body control. Not only does it push the deltoids to their limits, but it tests...
Calisthenics Chest & Tricep Workout (Bodyweight ONLY)23MAY, 2020Want a big chest and triceps but don’t have access to a bench press? Well good news, because you don’t need it! A calisthenics chest and tricep workout, when done correctly, can more than suffice. You...
Top 10 Calisthenics Bodyweight Leg & Glute Exercises3November, 2020Whether you’re a gym rat or not, many people often skip leg exercise in light of maintaining a strong and powerful upper body. Ab workouts give you chiselled abs, chest workouts build a wider and...
Have you ever wondered why, we as a society seem to be getting less and less adept, capable and fit? If you are reading this, I’m guessing you have and in noticing this trend, have decided to remove yourself from it by engaging in training and the development of...
The human flag is an icon in calisthenics, and is perhaps one of the few unique static holds not found in gymnastics. There have been similar variations in pole dancing, however it’s likely that calisthenics founded this isometric hold. In calisthenics the human flag...