Story by Liz Proctor + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck
Think of your core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a golf ball or sweeping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it. Strong core muscles enhance balance and stability while weak or inflexible ones impair how well your arms and legs function.
Here are a few easy ways you can improve your core strength, as shown by standout athlete Da’Jon “Pugg” Robinson, who is attending Limestone College on both a football and academic scholarship.
WANT ABS? TRY THESE MOVES:
RUSSIAN TWIST ON A BALL
Starting with your head and shoulders on top of the ball, engage your core by squeezing your belly button into your spine. This will engage your transverse abdominus (your internal weight belt). While keeping your hips up and squeezing your glutes, rotate your upper body with your arms straight, rolling over onto your triceps. Rotate back to the center with your arms extended toward the ceiling. Repeat this step, alternating sides, up to 15 reps. Progression: Hold weight with your hands.
OBO ON A BALL
Start with your bottom leg on top of the stability ball. Bend the bottom leg back and keep the top leg locked straight against a wall or platform. Again, engage your core (squeeze your belly button into your spine) and curl down the ball sideways as far as you can go. Come back up to the starting position. Increase the level of difficulty by adding a weight across your chest. Make sure you repeat all steps on the other side.
VARIATION: OBO ON A BENCH
This is the same idea as OBO on a ball, except with a partner. You can add weight to increase difficulty.
Secure your feet, lean back at a 45 degree angle and toss a medball back and forth without breaking your core. Progression: Add a Russian Twist by having your partner toss the ball to your hands, placed by your hip. Alternate sides, staying in a 45 degree angle.
VARIATION: PARTNER MEDBALL OVERHEAD
Add a level of difficulty with tossing the medball overhead, staying in a 45 degree angle.
3D PUSHUP SHOULDER CIRCUIT
Start in a pushup position on dumbells. Row dumbbell to your armpit, then punch to the side, following with your face. Row and punch to the ceiling. Repeat steps back, keeping your eyes on the dumbbell until returning to the starting position. Alternate sides. Repeat 5-10 times without breaking your core.
ELBOW BRIDGE ON ROLLER
Place your forearms in the middle of a roller with your elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your hips and shoulder blades parallel to the floor.
VARIATION: PUSHUP PLANK ON A ROLLER
Increase difficulty by progressing to a pushup plank. Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and hips and shoulder blades parallel.
VARIATION: PUSHUP PLANK WITH SPIDERLUNGE
Keeping your core and arms tight, drive your knee to your elbow. Alternate sides or stay on one side without touching the floor with your foot.
VARIATION: PUSHUP PLANK WITH HIP EXTENSION
Same as the pushup plank, except squeeze your glute and lift your leg off ground while keeping your leg straight. Repeat this 10-12 times on the same leg, or alternate legs.
Liz Proctor is the strength and conditioning coach at Hilton Head Island High School and is the director of “Be an Athlete,” a summer strength and conditioning program.
The right tools for the job.
1. YOGA BALL An essential for core strengthening. 2. FOAM ROLLER Affordable and versatile. 3. WEIGHT PLATE Yet another ab strengthening option. 4. DUMBBELLS Great addition for ab strengthening. 5. MEDICINE BALL Adds even more variation to the workout. 6. BENCH Allows for greater range of motion.