The core's main purpose is to stabilize the spine while the outer extremities are in motion. It's our base and our center of gravity. Training the core is a fundamental aspect of any good strength program.
Your core has the ability to flex, extend, laterally bend, and rotate the trunk. It also has the ability to resist all of these motions by stabilizing the trunk against external resistance. And that's commonly overlooked in strength programs. The stronger you are at resisting movement, the stronger you're going to be at executing movement.
I don't have anything against doing some sit-ups here and there, as long as you're not overdoing it and you don't have a back like Quasimodo. I do take issue if all of your core training revolves around doing shitty sit-ups at the end of your workouts with no anti-movement training whatsoever.
Many people have lordotic postures with excessive anterior pelvic tilts caused by a combo of weak core musculature and overactive hip flexors. Anti-extension exercises will teach you to stabilize the spine with your core musculature and resist the urge to hyperextend the lower back, putting less strain on the spine and hip flexors.
So, if you really want to start taking your core training to the next level, add some anti-extension drills into your workouts.
1 – Extended Plank
Get into a regular plank and slide your feet back so your body is stretched out. With your elbows positioned in front of your shoulders, you'll feel your core instantly engage. The greater the distance is between your elbows and your feet, the greater the demand will be.
Squeeze your glutes and keep your ribs drawn down as if you were bracing yourself to get punched in the stomach.
Do a 20-second hold, then a 20-second rest for 3-5 rounds.
2 – Extended Plank Push-Up
Same set-up as above, except this time you're adding a press. Think of this as a core-dominant bodyweight skull crusher.
The greater the distance is between your elbows and your feet, the harder it's going to be. So gradually work your way to a greater stretched-out position as you get stronger.
3 – Dead Bug
The beauty of this drill is its scalability. There are a ton of ways you can do dead bugs, whether you're a newbie or you want to increase the challenge with some external loading.
No matter how you do it, make sure you're covering the following:
- Back flat: No separation between your lower back and the floor.
- Ribs down: Brace yourself as if you're about to get punched in the gut to create as much core tension as possible.
- Breathe out as you stretch out: This cue came courtesy of Dean Somerset, who says: "The natural tendency during a heavy exhale is to go to flexion. Since the dead bug is an anti-extension exercise, you're resisting the urge to hyperextend as you stretch your limbs out. By exhaling heavily as you extend, you'll have a better ability to maintain a flat back and core tension."
- Breathe in as you come in: Regain your air as you return by breathing in through the belly. Don't do "chest breathing" and allow your ribs to flare out. This can cause excessive curving in your lower back and take the tension away from the core.
You can progress the dead bug by adding some external loading with dumbbells and resistance bands.