Build Tension First
Core strength is crucial, and it goes beyond having great abs. The first step to developing a strong, athletic core is to address and eliminate energy leaks.
Here's an example: If your back rounds in the squat and deadlift, that's an energy leak. And because you didn't stabilize the trunk sufficiently, your power will fail to transfer from the ground to the bar. The consequence of this is injury, or a failed and ugly lift. So you need to find core exercises to address this. The first step? Learn to build tension.
Isometric contractions are an effective way to learn this skill. You're familiar with planks, but moving resistance over short distances with control is better. Try these exercises.
Full Contact Twist – Arm Movement Only
- Start by holding a plank position with tense glutes, abs, and thighs. (The Spiderman mask is optional.)
- Squeeze the bar and push forward with one arm while pulling the bar with the other to create upper body tension. This helps prevent energy leaks in the shoulders and elbows.
- Slowly rotate the arms to one side, pause for a second, and then return to the start position before switching sides. The goal is to be able to hold a position with maximum tension while performing a slow arm movement, all without letting any other body segment move significantly.
Band Rotations – Arm Movement Only
- Start in a Pallof press position with maximum tension in the glutes and abs, then rotate the hands between the shoulders.
- These should be small, rhythmic movements. Avoid using the hips or momentum to create the movement. Try standing in front of a mirror and making sure the navel doesn't move at all. If you can manage that, you're stable.