Down to the Core: Three Exercises to Save Your Strength Gains

Train right with tips and tricks and of the trade from Chris Carmichael and Carmichael Training Systems.

May 8, 2006
Outside Magazine
Carmichael Training Systems

Carmichael Training SystemsTM

Watch a video of core conditioning exercises on Outside Television.

As summer begins to heat up, you're likely to spend more time training outside and participating in events, but for many active people and summer sports athletes, strength training declines during the warmer months of the year. However, instead of completely turning your back on strength training, enhance your training and competitive performances throughout the season by holding on to a few key core strength exercises.

We've all heard the buzzwords "core strength." Although we get bombarded by late-night infomercials and consumer marketing that hype this catchphrase, this is one case where the benefits actually live up to the hype. A strong core plays an important role in helping you maintain proper posture during daily activities and exercise. As a result, it helps prevent injuries and enhances performance in almost every sport. Take a couple minutes a week to continue your focus on core training, and it will pay off.

Listed below are three exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home in as little as 20 minutes a day. Try to do them two to three times a week during the summer and this routine will help you keep your core strong, which is important for running, riding, swimming, and climbing faster and more comfortably. Make sure to focus on good posture and technique throughout, and always warm up before you begin.

Summer Maintenance Core Strength Workout
Warm-Up: Ten to15 minutes of aerobic activity to raise heart rate and increase blood flow to muscles before you begin your circuit
Sets: Three times through the circuit of the following exercises
Reps: 15 reps per exercise
Breathing: Exhale on the abdominal contraction and inhale on the stretch phase
Rest: 90 seconds after each circuit
Cool-Down: Five to ten minutes of low intensity aerobic activity (walking) to aid in muscle recovery
Frequency: Two to three times per week

1. Russian Twist

How: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, your heels on the ground, and a medicine ball, dumbbell, or weight plate held about six to 12 inches away from your chest. Beginners can do these without added weight by clasping your hands in front of your chest. Lean back until you feel your abdominal muscles engage (your back will be at about a 45-degree angle with the floor). Rotate your upper body as far as you can to the right, focusing on rotating your whole upper body, not just your arms. Return to the center and then twist to the other side. One repetition is a twist to each side. Repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions in one set.

2. Stability Ball Knee Tuck
How: Start in a push-up position with the front side of your shins on the top of a stability ball and your body parallel to the floor. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width. You'll feel your torso muscles engage just to maintain this plank position. To start the knee tuck, use your stomach muscles to curl your knees up toward your chest. Pause for one second and then extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions.

3. Reverse Crunch
How: Lie on your back with your legs straight, feet together. Hold your arms straight at a 45-degree angle out from your torso, palms facing down. Bend your knees and bring them to your chest by tightening your abdominal muscles and curling your hips off the ground. Be careful to engage your abdominal muscles to produce the movement instead of relying on the muscles in the front of your hips and legs. When the knees have reached the chest, or as close as you can get, curl back down and return to the start position.

Core Training Tip
Resist arching your back. Your abdominals support your entire mid-section and are utilized in every sport. Use your abdominals to maintain your posture through every exercise and you will be injury free and strong through the season.

Train right with tips and tricks and of the trade from Chris Carmichael and Carmichael Training Systems, at