Your core means your abs, right? Wrong, says Mark Verstegen, author of the new Core Performance book series (Rodale) and founder of the Athletes' Performance institutes, where pros like Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups get training help. According to Verstegen, your core means muscles throughout your torso, hips, and shoulders, which are literally the backbone for daily and athletic movements. Follow this two-part workout he created to maintain a strong and stable back. Do the Mobility/Stability Circuit first, then transition immediately to the Strength Circuit (perform the workout two or three times per week).
MOBILITY/STABILITY CIRCUIT: Perform each of the five exercises in succession, then repeat the cycle for two complete sets.
1 DIAGONAL ARM LIFT
In modified push-up position (resting on forearms and feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart), extend right arm toward 2 o'clock without moving your torso. Hold for two seconds, then switch, extending left arm toward 10 o'clock. 6 reps each arm
2 MINIBAND HIP ROTATIONS
Stand in athletic position with a taut miniband just above your knees. Stretch the band by rotating your right knee inward and then outward. Don't move your pelvis or foot position. Switch after completing all repetitions with right leg. 12 reps each side
3 BACKWARD LUNGE
Step backward with right leg into a lunge, then raise your right arm straight overhead. Then side-bend to the left. Return to standing, switch legs, and repeat. Make sure your front knee does not move beyond your toes during the lunge. 6 reps each side
4 MARCHING GLUTE BRIDGE
Lying face up with arms at sides, knees bent, and heels on ground, raise hips until they are in line with your shoulders and knees. Bring your right knee to your chest; don't dip your hips. Return foot to ground; switch legs, repeat. 6 reps each side
5 QUADRUPED POSTERIOR ROCKING
On hands and knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips, push hips back as far as you can, stopping just before your pelvis starts to rotate under. Hold for two seconds and repeat. 6 reps
STRENGTH CIRCUIT: Complete two cycles, performing all three exercises in succession.
1 LATERAL-SLIDE SQUATStand with your left foot on a Valslide (valslide.com) or other material that will slide, such as a towel on a hardwood floor. Squat with your left leg to 90 degrees while sliding your right leg away from your body. Make sure your squatting knee doesn't go in front of your foot. Return to standing. Complete all repetitions, then switch legs. 10 reps each side
2 STABILITY CABLE CHOP
Holding a triceps pull-down rope with both hands (left arm extended, right arm in front of your chest) and left leg forward in a scissor stance, pull the cable by flexing your left arm to your left shoulder while extending your right arm away from your body. Then extend your left arm down and across your body without rotating your torso. Switch arms, repeat. 10 reps each side
3 ROMANIAN DEAD LIFT
Standing on left foot while holding dumbbells by your sides, pivot over so that dumbbells lower to the floor as right leg rises to parallel with the floor. Make sure your leg and upper body move as one stiff board, with your back never rounding. Switch legs, repeat. 10 reps each side