You’ve probably heard somewhere along the line that crunches and sit-ups are the more â€œfunctionalâ€ way to a stronger core -especially if you participate in CrossFit (or some fitness program similar to it). You’ll find most often that sit-ups are part of the daily WOD at least a few days per week in these types of gym settings. But -is this really true??
One could argue that there is a place in the fitness world for all these sit-ups. We do need to be able to flex the spine in order to get in and out of certain positions. However, sit-ups are not exactly the most efficient or safest way to move or train for a stronger core and abs -especially for pregnant and postpartum women.
In fact, if we want to be able to have a strong core, to prevent lower back pain, to ease pregnancy aches and pains, to be able to gradually lift heavier weights in the gym, and move more effectively overall…our core exercises and training programs NEED to be so much more than sit-ups and crunches. It’s also quite possible that you shouldn’t be doing these types of abdominal exercises at all because they may be doing more harm than good -especially if you are pregnant or have had a baby recently or even a few years ago.
Instead, we need to focus on movements that RESIST movement of the spine in all directions.
So what does that mean exactly?
We want to primarily train with exercises that will prevent the spine from extending (anti-extension), rotating (anti-rotation), and flexing sideways (anti-lateral flexion). This is the next level stuff! This is the core training approach that will get you more bang for your buck -hands down…and might I add -entirely sit-up and crunch free!
In this article, I am going to cover 5 core exercises that may not be â€œregularsâ€ in your exercise program -especially if you are an avid CrossFitter. However, they are the ones that I love to use and program quite frequently for my coaching clients as well. These exercises are also core and pelvic floor friendly for mamas who are currently pregnant, postpartum, healing a Diastasis Recti, as well as a pelvic organ prolapse.
5 â€œCrunch Freeâ€ Core Exercises
First and foremost, remember that in order to make these exercises more effective, you need to remember your breathing pattern: Inhale, breathe down into the rib cage, and let the pelvic floor relax on the easiest part of the exercise. Exhale all that air out, and contract the pelvic floor on the hardest part of the exercise.
Exercise 1: Band Pullover + Leg Raise
How To: Attach a light resistance band to a sturdy post behind you. Set up lying on your back and far enough away from band so that it is fully stretched overhead. There should be a little bit of tension on it at this starting position.
Press both legs tight to the floor. Pull the band with the muscles in your back to bring the band to chest level. Exhale and raise one leg into the air as high as you can get it while still keeping the leg straight. Make sure the other leg remains glued to the floor.
Continue holding the band over your chest while you lower the leg down and raise the other leg up. That’s 1 rep.
How Often: 1-2 times per week and 5-6 reps per leg.
Exercise 2: Dead Bug (one foot on floor) with Pallof Press Hold
How To: Set a light to medium resistance band up on a sturdy post. Lay perpendicular to the band with the band at chest level
Exhale to press your arms completely straight in the air and hold them in the air. You’ll feel the band pulling you in towards the post and it’s your job to resist rotating in towards the post. Keep the hips and shoulders steady on the floor with one foot on the ground. Exhale again and extend one leg out. Inhale and return to start position. Repeat on other leg.
How Often: 1-2 times per week 8-10 reps per side.
Exercise 3: ½ Kneeling Low-High Anti-Rotation Chop (with band)
How to do it: Set up in a solid half kneeling position. Squeeze the back glute. Start with the band down by your hip. Exhale, then pull the band in towards your chest then press it above to the opposite shoulder. Hips should remain facing forward and relatively quiet. No twisting of torso.
How often: 1-2 times per week, 6-8 reps per side.
Exercise 4: Kettlebell Front Rack Carry
How To: Hold a medium kettlebell in the front rack position. Walk at a normal pace, breathing normally, but make sure each foot step is from heel to toe. Make sure your ribs aren’t “flaring up” as you walk.
How Often: 1-2 times per week. Walk for 15-30 seconds each side.
Exercise 5: ½ Kneeling KB Halo
How To: Set up in a solid half kneeling position. Squeeze the back glute. Start with a light to medium KB upside down and holding it on either side of the handle near your chest. Keeping the KB in close and elbows in close, rotate in around your head stopping in front of your chest. Exhale each time you rotate it around your head.
How Often: 1-2 times per week, 5-8 rotations per direction.
Learn more core and pelvic floor friendly exercises and full workouts in this 4 week workout program designed specifically for moms and moms-to-be.
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