When we talk about working your abs – or core – the first thing most people think of is the classic crunch. And, don’t get me wrong, the crunch has it’s place. In fact, according to two separate studies – one in 2001 and the other in 2014 – both conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the crunch is still the best overall core exercise.
Sort of. For one thing, many people just do the crunch wrong and end up either limiting the effectiveness of the exercise or causing injury to their lower backs. Many more have preexisting injuries that stop them from even attempting the crunch.
But another issue comes up when you consider the mechanics of human movement. Your core is just not made to be doing much while you’re lying down. Those muscles are meant to keep you upright and moving correctly. So, it stands to reason that the best way to work them would be while you’re standing up.
What follows are some simple exercises that you can do to work your core while standing. These having the added benefit of training your balance and stability – aspects that are very valuable to the athlete.
- Woodchoppers – Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart so that your left leg is slightly ahead of your right. Hold either a medicine ball, a dumbbell or a cable handle in both your hands with the weight resting on your right side and your arms straight. Keeping your knees soft lift the weight up and across your body so that it comes above your left shoulder. Slowly return to starting position. Switch the position of your feet and weight to work the right side.
- Around-the-worlds – Stand with your feet even, about shoulder-width apart. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in both your hands, with the weight resting in front of you and your arms straight. Tighten your core to stay upright and swing the weight in a wide circle, clockwise around your body. Keep your arms straight throughout the movement. After 10 reps, pause and reverse direction.
- Side bends – There are several ways you can work the side bend movement, but holding the weight above your head adds a challenging element that can help improve balance and posture more than the traditional take. Stand with your feet at shoulder-width and hold a weight above your head. Keeping your arms straight and your knees soft, bend your torso as far as you can to the left. Slowly return to center before repeating the movement on your right side.
Try adding these movements to your normal workouts as a way to improve, not only the strength of your core, but also your balance and posture.