After years of grueling ab work, mind-numbingly dull planks and repetitive exercises that target only a fraction of your core, you would rather go through yet another excruciating drop-set of your pause squat than do another crunch or leg raise.
Even the toughest of athletes need to incorporate core work into their training program, and not to mention your average joe who spends hours bent over a keyboard. But if you’re sick and tired of mundane routines, you can include some of these solutions to keep your center sturdy and keep yourself from jamming a spoon in your eye out of sheer boredom.
1. Mimic Spiderman
Think military boot-camps with men keeping as low to the ground as possible, babies in their most natural state of exploring the bedroom floor, and the way Spiderman manages to climb up a building. This seemingly simple movement pattern known as crawling is one of the best, and yes, most hilarious ways you can test your core. You think it’s easy? Try crawling in a slow, controlled way for one mile without breaking the correct pattern.
You can start with the basic baby crawl and work your way up towards the Spiderman crawl, and use it not only as a warmup routine, but an isolated effort to engage your entire body. A few of its main perks include rebuilding your basic, reflexive strength, restore your mobility, and even serve as a fun stress-relieving method. Choose your battle
The macho kicks, punches, throws, hugs and chokes from martial arts are all designed to keep your entire body engaged, but most importantly, they make your core burn like few other activities. Even if you’re not interested in taking up a whole new kick-boxing class or attending a Krav Maga course in Israel just to boost your lifting efforts, you can learn a few basic movements that will serve you well on the punching bag as soon as you hit the gym.
Not only will they fire you up for your next PR, but they’ll also elevate your heart-rate, make you sweat just enough to start your weightlifting session and most importantly, teach you to tighten all the right segments of your core. Even a basic karate kick requires you to use all of your abdominals, not just your rectus abdominis, but your transverse abdominis and obliques as well. Plus, you’ll learn a few handy moves useful self-defense moves.
2. Take the Leap
If you think things couldn’t get more fun than crawling or kicking your way to core strength, you couldn’t be further from the truth. An even simpler, yet surprisingly fun way to bring your abdominal power to the next level is by, believe it or not, jumping. The trampoline has sneaked into many modern fitness centers as a whole separate class that leads to a toned, lean physique, but you can use it as an occasional method to power up your core.
From introducing your own jumping area in your back yard, to organizing a fun trip to a fully-equipped trampoline park in Las Vegas, you’ll forget you’re there for the exercise, and you’ll wake up the next morning with muscle soreness that can only be matched by a Vegas-worthy hangover. The next time you need an excuse for a visit to the Sin City, remember, you’re going to boost your athletic performance. Talk about hardcore activities.
3. Kettlebell Challenge
A more localized approach that doesn’t require you to take up the entire gym by being on all fours or travelling to a different city might not be as exciting for you, but it sure will be for your core! There are quite a few ways we use kettlebells in the gym, but few resort to this handy tool to elevate their core game. Have you tried kettlebell swings and squats?
In addition to these amazing movements, there are other, more challenging variations you can utilize if you’re a more advanced athlete, or if you simply want to mix things up. Unilateral presses, rows and squats which force you to load your body differently, while changing your standard position into unilateral lunges and sprinter deadlifts also poses a variety of problems for keeping your spine aligned and avoiding unhealthy flexion.
4. Become a Pretzel
Slow and controlled is another way to go, next to all of the previously mentioned, more active movements. That is precisely why yoga asanas are ideal for activating your deepest core muscles, and making them stronger through ungodly positions that will challenge not just your core power, but your mobility and flexibility.
Breathing exercises will also come in handy for your compound exercise bracing patterns, and you’ll quickly realize that despite its soothing appearance, advanced yoga asanas can be more than enough to replace your regular planks and keep your routine all the more interesting.