Core strength seems to be on everyone’s mind right now. Trainers and coaches are talking about it, your doctor is recommending it and even the mainstream media are telling us that it’s a good thing.
But what is core strength?
The answer is in the question. It’s strength. Specifically, it’s best described as the strength to maintain correct spinal alignment in a variety of positions and under particular stresses. In short, core strength means that you can do stuff without messing up your back. Unfortunately the vast majority of people think that core strength just means ‘ab work’.
By taking a broad definition of core strength i.e. any muscles that assist in maintaining good posture, we can also see why it’s so important to include a range of exercises that work every muscle group.
For most people, improving core strength does not mean adding countless extra exercises into their training program. In fact, this is often counter-productive. Instead it’s often far more effective to use simple compound exercises (exercises that use multiple muscles and joints) and focus on maintaining great technique.
It’s also really important to realise that the spine is not a lever - it works in multiple planes of motion. For that reason, it also makes sense to include exercises where your body is going to be moving or stabilising in multiple planes of motion.
Just getting the sandbag over your head is a great feat of core strength! Make sure you include exercises like overhead presses and overhead walking lunges. A handleless sandbag makes this even more challenging.
Often overlooked because of its simplicity, the deadlift is the ultimate in functional movement - at some point pretty much everyone will be required to pick up something heavy from the floor. Not surprisingly, the deadlift is also great for developing the core strength required to do this safely and effectively.
The windmill is an old fashioned exercise that has recently become more popular with kettlebell lifters. But, if you think it’s challenging as a kettlebell exercise then you need to try it with a sandbag! Stabilising the bag overhead in one hand is seriously tough. The windmill is also a great choice for core strength because it is a true multi-planar exercise - including sideways (Frontal), rotational (Transverse) and forwards (Sagittal) movement.