You need your core for a hell of a lot. Physically performing at a high level, getting stronger, and, of course, looking better with your clothes off. But core training is often done in a shortsighted way.
Here’s the purpose of your core, from most to least important: Stabilizing the spine and pelvis, transferring energy between the lower and upper body, and moving the spine. Since your spine is the road that leads everywhere, a weak core means you aren't hitting your potential everywhere else.
Starting with simple stability drills like the plank, side plank, and push-up (which is just a dynamic plank), you should develop a base level of core strength before moving on to more challenging tasks. In this case, we're talking about a move that simultaneously forces you to stabilize the spine across multiple vectors while encouraging a smooth transfer of energy from lower to upper body. It's called the tripod push-pull, and all it requires is a band or cable system.
Setting Up the Tripod Push-Pull
The setup for this puts you in what’s called a one-arm crawl position. Start by getting down on hands and knees. Then lift your knees about an inch off the ground, so only your hands and toes are in contact with the floor. Lift one arm off the ground without shifting or tilting your pelvis. Imagine you have to keep a glass of water balanced on your lower back.
How to Do It
Here’s where it gets tough: With your band or cable anchored behind you, perform a shoulder press without losing your neutral spine position (in other words, the only thing that should be moving is your arm). You want your stabilizer muscles working hard to keep you in that straight-ahead torso position, which puts your core through the gauntlet. If you’re having trouble from the beginning, it’s ok to put your knees on the ground while you get used to the movement.
Do three to five sets of eight reps on either arm, using a weight that challenges you (or having your band tense enough to challenge you). As part of your regular workouts, swap it in for your military press or pull-ups two or three times a week.
Why You Should Do It
This move trains anti-rotation through the one-arm crawl position, plus it hits anti-lateral flexion (the best way to train those beach-body obliques). Finally, you get the added bonus of performing an upper-body push exercise in the vertical plane, which means you’re firing up your shoulder muscles while sparing your joints.
Flip It and Reverse It
Turn around 180 degrees so you’re pulling the band toward you instead of pushing it away. By flipping the move, you’re putting your lats to work and protecting the joints that usually take a beating when you do pulling exercises.
There’s a clear trend here: It’s a lot easier to keep your joints healthy and protected with a stable core. So instead of spending your time on crunches and sit-ups, use this move to train your core for the real world. Pair this with a dialed-in diet and not only will your abs be strong and shredded, but your joints will be happier and healthier than ever.