A strong core is more than “six-pack abs“; it is your body’s power zone-the beginning of all movement. The body’s core includes the muscles of the shoulders, the chest, the abdomen, the hips, the pelvis, and the upper to lower back muscles. A strong core helps your extremities do a better job while exercising, while playing sports, or while doing everyday household chores.
During workouts train your core before your extremities (arms or legs) because the core provides the strength that allows your limbs to position themselves according to the demands of the activity. Core exercises should progress from simple to complex movements. For example, lying on the floor, you could begin by performing crunches, then the training program could progress to standing, and then to a more sport-specific activity. Changing from known to unknown surfaces, such as training on a Swiss Ball (a large ball made of durable vinyl), will help to improve your workout. Other examples of progression include performing an activity from sitting to kneeling, kneeling to standing, and two-leg to one-leg while standing on an even and uneven surface. The progression of exercises forces you to adapt to a changing environment. The more sport-specific your training is the more aware you are to all of the demands the sport places on your body. Your exercise program should include exercises that are up and down, side to side, and, most importantly, rotational. Many activities in sports are rotational; therefore, you should train in such a manner. Once a strong base is developed, you should progress from slow- to fast-moving activities as long as technique is not jeopardized.
According to the American Council on Exercise, The Bicycle Maneuver is one of the most effective abdominal strengthening exercises. This exercise strengthens the rectus abdominus (the long flat muscles along the front and sides of the abdomen).
How to do the bicycle maneuver exercise
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your fingers on the side of your head just behind your ears.
- Push your lower back into the floor flattening the arch and hold.
- Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee in a slow and controlled manner and with full extension of each leg on every repetition.
- Breath evenly throughout the exercise.
- Perform 20-30 repetitions (up to three sets).