Core - Exercises to Strengthen Your Abs For Better Performance A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever
you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce your fatigue
in the long run.
"If your core is weak, nothing else can be strong"
By Justin Maguire
Thought I'd capture some simple thoughts about the importance of core work,
and then share my favorite core workout dreamed up by my evil, whip
brandishing trainer...er... I mean... my wife.
Yes... most core work sucks when your core is out of shape. I too used to
hate doing this, but it's helped my swimming, biking and running
immeasurably. So suck it up and make this a part of your routine (I'd
recommend twice a week). Welcome to the world of a strong core and ripped
Why is core work important?
Strengthening your core will allow your body to efficiently transfer force
from the lower to the upper body and back again, thus ensuring that any force
you exert to move your body forward isn't wasted in moving your body
sideways, etc. A strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment
for whatever you’re doing (swim, bike or run), and this in turn will reduce
your fatigue in the long run (good form usually takes less energy than bad
The problem is that most people equate "core" with abs only. The
reality is that your core includes your upper back muscles (head carriage),
gluteals (pelvis stabilization), oblique and what you consider
"abs". My wife is the person who initially built this little core
routine for me (thx Trish! - I think!). I really like this session because it
works most of your core muscles & challenges the body to stabilize itself
throughout multiple axes of movement, while keeping it interesting and broken
into manageable chunks.
After posting this, I was contacted by Marlon Familton at Dynamic Sports
Training. He has an excellent article (Back to the Future
of Abdominal Training) on core training. VERY good stuff in
here, so give it a read. Remember... I'm offering you a starting point for
core work. Working with the information in Marlon's document and a good
trainer, feel free to take yourself to the next level.
"Around the world" This set should be considered reasonably advanced. If you have not done
core work before, then you may consider doing some basic crunches before
stepping up to this workout. Before I describe each exercise it's
important to remember the following 5 things:
with anything new, introduce your body to these gradually. These will work
your body in a very different way than you are used to, so take it easy!
aren't breathing while doing these, then you're doing them wrong.
slow. Speed is not important, and will usually lead to using momentum to
cheat your way through the exercise.
these with other people. It's great fun, and will keep you motivated.
I call this "Around the world" because it works all of
your core muscle groups. There are 15 different core techniques to this
routine - 3 for each side (the front goes twice). You'll start by selecting
your interval. The total number of reps you will do in this routine is based
upon the number you choose here x 15. So, if you select 25 then you will be
doing 15 X 25 = 375 reps. For beginners I'd choose 10, intermediate 15,
advanced 20-25, Elite 25-35. At the end, lay on your stomach for 2-3 minutes
and gently come up into a cobra position to stretch your stomach muscles.
Make this a part of your workout routine twice a week, and you'll be amazed
at how much stronger you will feel come race day.
1. Standard Crunch - Think about a string attached to your belly
button & running through your body pulling your stomach towards the
2. Knee-up crunches - Focus on keeping the small of your back against
the floor even throughout the range of motion. SLOOOW. :)
3. Hip lifts - Keep your legs straight and don't let them rock back as
your lift your hips. YES - I'm pushing down w/ my hands so I could hold this
forever for the camera, but you should put your palms facing up! :) These are
tough... don't speed through them.
4. Oblique crunches - You should feel your ribs pressing pinching into
your side. Try not to fold forward, but rather bend up trying to get your
elbow to touch your feet.
5. Side Plank Dips - Keep your body in a straight line (one plane) and
keep the movement smooth and slow. Your hips should just touch (but not rest
on!) the ground.
6. Oblique Leg Extensions - This not only works your obliques, but
should also engage your piriformis & hip flexor as well. Don't let your
leg touch the ground, and when the leg is fully extended your butt should be
tightly squeezed rotating your leg out ever so slightly (this is the
7. Supermans - Each side counts as 1/2 of a rep. Your stomach muscles
should be engaged when you lift up. Think about your arm and leg not only
being pulled up, but also out. Hold it at the top for 2 seconds.
8. Bridged Leg Lifts - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep your butt
down. You don't need to lift your legs super high.
9. Pushups - Keep your head raised and looking forward, and your body
in a perfect horizontal plane. Your elbows should bend back, not out to the side.
10, 11, 12. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6, but do the other side.
13. Heel Touches - Each heel touch counts as 1/2 of a rep. Keep
your shoulder blades off the ground, remember to breathe, and make sure your
feet are far enough away from you that you have to really reach to touch the
14. Bicycle Crunches - Each leg counts as 1/2 of a rep. Each twist w/
leg extension should take you long enough to say "one one thousand"
to yourself, no faster. Try to keep your shoulder blades off the ground.
15. Half Up Twists - Sit up, put your hands on top of your knees and
then lean back until your arms are straight. Cross your arms in front of you
(each hand holding an elbow) and start twisting! Each side counts as 1/2 of a