Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
In daily life, you rarely find yourself crunching up off the floor to do, well, much of anything. And according to Chris Kolba, Ph.D., CSCS, physical therapist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, vertical training is a better route to a strong, toned core than crunching.
“In most activities, the body is primarily in an upright position with various components of vertical, horizontal and rotational movement acting against gravity,” Kolba says. “Therefore, training the core in an upright position is a better choice to facilitate muscle, joint and balance receptor activity.” Training your core functionally also means better overall performance as well as killer definition in your obliques and six-pack.
Do each move for three to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, together as in the sample routine, or scattered throughout your training week. Beginning athletes can perform them with both feet on the ground and/or without weight, while more advanced athletes can do the moves as prescribed. “The movements are meant to be small and controlled in nature,” Kolba says. “The size of the medicine ball varies depending on the ability of the person, so start lighter and work your way up.”
No medicine ball? No problem. Do the moves with a small dumbbell, weight plate or kettlebell.
Single-Legged Overhead Reach
Stand with your back to a wall with your heels about a foot from its base. Hold a medicine ball straight out in front of your chest with both hands, arms straight, and lift one foot off the ground. Squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward slightly to engage your core. Keep your hips steady as you lift the ball in an arc overhead, then touch it to the wall behind you without arching your back. Return slowly to the start.
Single-Legged Overhead Side Bend
Stand adjacent to a wall about 2 feet away and hold a medicine ball overhead with both hands, arms straight. Lift your outside foot and squeeze your glutes. Slowly bend sideways toward the wall, lifting up and out of your rib cage while keeping your arms straight, until the ball touches the wall. Return to the start. Repeat on both sides.
Single-Legged One-Arm Posterior Rotation
Stand in front of a wall with your heels about a foot away from its base. Hold a medicine ball with one hand in front of your chest parallel to the ground and lift your same-side foot. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes, then slowly rotate to the side, opening your chest and touching the ball lightly to the wall behind you. Return to the start. Repeat on both sides.
“All forces must go through the core, whether they are generated from the top down or the bottom up. If the core is weak or inefficient, energy will be ‘leaked’ and the end result is decreased performance and/or injury from compensation.” – Chris Kolba