Do you have a specific purpose when it comes to your “ab”, “core”, “trunk” (whatever you want to call it) exercises or workouts?
I feel as though most people when they think of an ab workout, think of laying on your back and doing a bunch of reps of certain exercises. For athletes especially, there needs to be more thought put into these exercises.
What do you do in your sport that requires the trunk muscles? Throwing, fighting through a tackle, hitting a ball, blocking an opponent? All these are different ways athletes use their trunk in their sport.
There are a couple points I want you to think about after this post, what movement you are wanting to improve and what component (strength, power, etc.) of that movement are you wanting to improve? Your chosen exercises should be specific to your goals.
First, there are a lot of exercises that can train the trunk in different ways. I will name a few types of trunk training, explain why they are important to athletes, and then go into examples of movements you can use.
1. Rotational Exercises: This is important for different movements when you have to turn at your waist. Some examples are throwing a ball, swinging a bat/golf club/etc., wrapping up some one and trying to twist them to the ground to tackle them. Some examples of these type of exercises are landmine rotations, resistance band rotations, rotational med ball throws, cable woodchoppers.
2. Anti-Rotation Exercises: This is important for when you are trying to prevent the rotation at the waist or need to withstand a rotational movement. Some examples are when you are locked up with another person and trying to block them while they are fighting through or when you are going are going to do a quick cut and need to quickly stabilize your trunk to shift directions. Some examples of these are pallof press, planking shoulder taps, antirotation med ball catches, single leg RDL, renegade row.
3. “Trunk Stability”/Bracing Exercises: I will call this a separate category from above although it is pretty similar. The different I will have with these is it is more in the sagittal plane or keeping the whole trunk in line instead of stopping from going side to side or rotating. This is important when bracing to go into a tackle as well as when you need to brace for a deadlift/squat or any exercise. Some examples of these are front squats, straight arm cable pull down, planks.
4. Flexion Exercises: These are the most common exercises you see such as sit ups and leg raises. While these do have their purposes for certain things, they might not be as much of a priority as the ones mentioned above in an athletes program. They do help develop the rectus abdominis which is the visual muscle most people think of when they think of abs, but the bending forward motion isn’t usually as important as the motions mentioned above in athletics.
5. Extension Exercises: These are exercises that target the low back and glute region. They are important for low back health as well as keeping a strong trunk and are often forgot about as the front is always trained. Some examples are supermans, back extensions, Nordic hamstrings, deadlifts.
Above are the 5 different categories I’ll classify trunk training in this article. Hopefully these can help assist you better chose an exercise next time you train.
Two more points I wanted to add in about trunk training.
1. Most of athletic sports are done on your feet. This means the ab exercises that are the most specific to your sport should also be done on your feet. Laying on your back and rotating through exercises isn’t done in sport.
2. Training for a goal. Again, doing numerous exercises for the abs…what is it doing? Probably training muscular endurance. This could be a goal for some, but sport also requires strength and power from the trunk. This means you should be training this muscle just like any other! Here is a link to another one of my articles going over the proper sets, reps, and rest periods to train for strength and power. Some examples are standing med ball rotational slams for power and loading up on landmine rotations for some strength. The muscles are the trunk are muscles too, so train them like they are.