The High Performance Journal

3 Core Exercises To Do Everyday

get lean Nov 07, 2023

The High Performance Journal - November 7th, 2023

When I was in my 20’s I dealt with a debilitating back injury.

It got so bad that I would get up and down from a couch like an 80-year-old man who had hip surgery.

If you've ever experienced chronic pain in any form you know that it has become a way of life. You don't even remember what life was like before feeling pain every day.

Like all things, I went to search for solutions to fix my issue.

After doing much research and trying many different things I found the cause of my problems came from my core.

In short, I had a weak core mainly due to long periods of sitting.

More specifically, even though I did a ton of crunches and squats I lacked core stability.

What Is Core Stability And Why Does It Matter?

Imagine an orchestra for a second. Every person has an instrument and is united to create a symphony of music.

Your body is similar because your muscles coordinate with other muscles to create efficient movement.

Your core is made up of muscles going all the way from your abs to your back to your glutes.

If any of these are out of sync you get some weird-sounding music and you'll probably fire your conductor.

When your core fails to sync with each other your spine gets overloaded, which increases the risk of injury, chronic pain and worsens your performance.

Note: If you sit at a desk there's a good chance you may suffer from a lack of core stability.

Your core should be one of the strongest areas of your body. It's where you get your power and stability from when doing any type of movement.

But sitting for long periods of time weakens your core, which forces your spine to take on more load, especially in your workouts.

Here's what to do about it:

3 Core Exercises To Do Everyday

There are 3 core exercises that are staples in almost every program we create and they're called the McGill Big 3.

These exercises are essential for everyday living especially if you sit at a desk.

They comprise of the Bird Dog, Side Plank, and McGill Crunch, which target the most important areas of your core.

Bird Dogs

This exercise works the back (aka. posterior) part of your core.

These muscles allow for correct movement, control, and stability of the entire body.

Here's how to do them:

  1. Begin on all fours in the tabletop position.
  2. Maintain a neutral spine by bracing your abdominal muscles. A way to track this is to put a broom handle lengthwise across your back to balance.
  3. Draw your shoulder blades together.
  4. Raise your right arm and left leg, keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. Pretend as if you're pushing the Earth away with your hand and foot.
  5. Squeeze your glutes hard while keeping your core braced.
  6. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then lower back down to the starting position.
  7. Return to the starting position and do the other side. That's one rep.

If you can't do both arms and legs you can regress this movement by focusing only on raising an arm or just your legs.

If this is too easy you can bring your knees off the ground and stabilize yourself with the balls of your feet.

Aim for 6 to 10 reps per side every day.

Side Plank

This exercise works the side (aka. lateral) part of your core

They help you develop a strong, stable core while also strengthening your glutes, hips, and shoulders.

Here's how to do them:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs straight and feet on top of each other.
  2. Place your elbow under your right shoulder with your forearm pointed away from you with your hand balled into a fist. The pinky finger should be in contact with the ground.
  3. With your neck neutral, breathe out and brace your core.
  4. Lift your hips off the mat so that you’re supporting your weight on your elbow and the side of your right foot. Your body should be in a straight line from your ankles to your head.
  5. Hold this position for the duration of the exercise. Depending on your fitness level, aim for between 15 to 60 seconds.
  6. Repeat on your left side.

If you can't do this movement you can regress down to having your knees on the ground.

If this is too easy you can elevate your top leg on a bench to increase resistance.

Aim for 15 to 60 seconds per day.

The McGill Crunch aka. McGill Curl Up

This exercise targets the front (aka. anterior) part of your core.

It helps you improve core stability through the anterior part of your core, which helps you maintain a healthy and functional spine.

Here's how to do them:

  1.  Place your hands palms down on the floor underneath the natural arch in your lower back. (Don't flatten your back.)
  2. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor without bending your lower back or spine.
  3. Push your abs out and do a hard brace of your core.
  4. Hold this position for 7 to 8 seconds, breathing deeply the entire time.
  5. That's one repetition. Do all your repetitions, then switch legs so that your right leg is straight and your left is bent.

This move is simple enough that there need not be any regressions.

Aim for 6 to 12 repetitions on each side every day.

How To Get The Most Out Of These Exercises

  • Do a hard brace of your core as if you're trying to protect yourself from getting punched in the stomach. Hold this throughout the exercises.
  • Squeeze your glutes as if you're trying to crush a walnut in your butthole. Maintain this as well.
  • Each movement is concentrated and deliberate. Don't just do the movement. Make each rep intentional.

The biggest mistake I see people make with these is that they go through the motions as the exercises seem quite easy.

But they become some of the hardest exercises you'll ever do when you bring focus and intention.

You want your body to have tension throughout the exercise. Do this for a couple of reps and you will see how difficult they can be.

How Often Should You Do These Exercises?

Do these exercises every day. If you can't do that then get at least 3 sessions a week.

The best times are in the morning upon waking, in between desk sessions, and right before doing a workout.

3 Exercises To A Stronger Core

Your core should be one of the strongest areas of your body. Let’s keep it that way

Regardless of your experience level inside of the gym, everyone can benefit from doing these exercises especially if they sit at a desk for long periods of time.

Try these out and let me know how they work. Chances are you'll feel stronger and more stable than ever before.

Onwards and upwards 🚀

- Dan


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