At Home Core Exercises

By Rad Dad and Fitness Expert Mar 3, 2020
Core strength is a no brainer when it comes to training. Keeping our spine and midline healthy, and strong will go a long way for our health and performance.
At Home Core Exercises

Our core is made up of the muscles in our back, abdomen, and even some hip flexors. All of these play a role in our ability to stabilize our spine. At the end of the day, this is the most important thing about core strength. It not only protects us from potential back injuries, but it also helps us with increased performance. The stronger your core is, the more you can utilize those limbs to do the work they need to and have a transfer of power. Imagine skiing a bumpy run and having your spine be like a spaghetti noodle. No bueño. Now compare this to a cinderblock and what your legs can do beneath you. You get the idea. Power transfer.  

A healthy spine has mobility to it which means it can go into flexion (closing of a joint), and extension (opening of a joint). These are normal things, but in nearly all scenarios your spine should stay neutral in a loaded environment. You can load your spine in a variety of different ways. Yes, lifting weights does this. It could be a variation of a squat that is causing some kind of compressive force, or it could be something like a deadlift which is you resisting sheer force. Either one of these will help make you strong. They should also be trained with proper mechanics and techniques so you can stay healthy and strong, which helps eliminate the risk of an injury. 

Compressive force isn’t just limited to lifting though. It can come through continual pounding from running, hucking yourself off a cliff when you’re shredding pow or a variety of other exercises. It’s important that we have muscles that create a stable structure around your spine in order to keep that spine healthy and protected. You don’t have to be a pro athlete in order to benefit from a strong core. It can simply be to help reduce any existing back pain you may feel. A strong back is a healthy one. We need to approach it from both sides though. Below are some simple exercises you can do to improve your midline strength.

Hollow Hold: (ab work)

These look easy but when done well they are SUPER challenging. Start with a simple progression where you are laying on your back and you curl up into a ball pulling your knees to your chest. Once you feel this position try keeping your knees there, and shoulder blades off the ground when putting your hands down by your hips. You should have the small of your back on the ground, and your abs should be working like crazy to keep you there. 

If this is easy try extending one leg, then the other. If you can still keep the hollow position with the small of your back on the ground try extending your arms overhead. If you’re a real pro and can still hold this position try rocking back and forth where your low back is still the only thing on the ground. 

Superman Hold: (low back work)

This is basically the opposite of the hollow hold. Now, your stomach is down on the ground, and you're trying to lift your chest up off the ground as well as your thighs. Squeezing your legs together and pointing your toes can help create a bit more tension here and make it “easier” to hold this position. Progressions into this really boil down to effort. Even trying to create the position has value if you can’t get there quite yet. Same as the hollow hold, some of you may even be able to rock back and forth here. 

The above are static holds which have great value to them, but we can also get more movement through flexion and extension. 

Superman Hold low back work

Sit Up/V-Up: (ab work)

The sit-up is obviously the more friendly of the two and can be done anywhere. If you want to target your abs, only try putting the soles of your feet together and pull your heels close to your butt. This will shut off your hip flexors from working and pull you up out of the bottom of the sit-up. Chances are you will need to get a sweatshirt, towel, or something to roll up and put under the small of your back. This gives your spine something to lever off of, without it, many of us won’t even be able to sit up!! 

The V-Up is super legit and forces us to work our midline through a static hold while closing and opening the hip joint. It takes some timing, balance, flexibility, and real strength. Don’t worry...I can’t keep my legs extended the whole time either. You can progress into these from a bent knee version, and as you get stronger go to the straight leg variation. Either way, abs of steel!

Good Morning: (low back work)

I LOVE these for making our core stronger. For “at home” you will need either an exercise band or some kind of object to create a bit of loading. The good-morning is the movement from the hip while our low back works statically to keep our spine in a neutral position. Keeping your chest up and back flat, hinge at the waist and push your hips back. A slight bend in the knee is fine and often encouraged. Go as far as you can without any movement in your back. Each individual may find some differing range of motion depending on your hamstring flexibility. Don’t worry about this. Work within the range of motion that you can move with quality position. Lightweight and high rep or heavyweight and a low rep will work with these.

When it comes to what type of rep schemes to do try 3 to 4 sets of 20-30 second holds for the static work like the hollow hold and superman. This will get tough!! Try not to rest more than 2 minutes between sets. If it feels easy, rest less.  

For the more dynamic movements like the sit-up/v-up and good morning, a good rule of thumb is working with 2 to 4 total sets and trying to accumulate roughly 40 total repetitions. Get creative and have fun with your work sets and loading.  

Simple movements like this, done three days/week with a focus on quality mechanics will go a long way in your overall strength and spine health. Give them a shot and lets me know what questions you may have in the comments below!