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Stand Up for a Strong Core

If you want to build a strong core, take a stand—literally. New research indicates that vertical core training is the most effective way to strengthen the core. So, ditch the mat and stand up because crunches are so last year. Get ready to jump, throw, lunge, reach, and press your way to a strong core

Why Vertical Works
The core muscles are critical for standing upright, maintaining proper posture, and moving the body in different planes of motion. We use our abdominal muscles when we move, whether we’re striding up a steep hill or bending over to pick up a heavy object.

Because we recruit and engage our core muscles when we’re standing and moving, it makes sense to work them under the same circumstances. Vertical core exercises move the body in multiple planes, thereby training the core in the way that we most often use it—while standing.

Vertical core exercises are “functional” movements that simulate real-life situations. In our everyday movements, we rarely use a muscle in isolation, so it doesn’t make sense to train our muscles with isolated movements such as crunches.

Get Vertical
Vertical core exercises don’t have to be complicated to be effective. Learn to use gravity, resistance, and mobility to train your core to be strong and functional. Start with a few basic moves and you’ll be on your way to a strong core. Here are a few exercises to get you started:

  • Wood Chops: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a medicine ball between your hands. Slowly raise the ball over one shoulder and then bend your knees and lower the ball toward your opposite foot (to simulate the motion of swinging an axe).
  • Toe Taps: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended out to the side. Keeping your legs and arms straight, bring your right hand to your left foot and then return to center. Then bring your left hand to your right foot and return to center. Continue alternating sides as you draw your abdominals in toward your navel.
  • Reverse Lunge and Press: Hold lightweight dumbbells in each hand and stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Step backward with your right foot as you press your right arm overhead. As you step forward to the starting position, switch arms and complete an overhead press with the left arm. Alternate lunging and pressing overhead. Variation: Instead of pressing the arm overhead, reach it across your body diagonally to engage the oblique muscles.

This is only a small sample of vertical core exercises you can try. There is a huge variety of standing exercises that will engage your core—including plyometric jumping, hanging knee raises, leaping, bounding, throwing, twisting, and even incorporating balance tools such as the BOSU ball. Get creative. Ask a trainer for help if you need it.