Structural integrity is a performance characteristic that ensures the constructed will carry out its designed function. Apply this definition to the world of bodybuilding, and you’ll find that the path it leads you to is literally at the “core” of your physique.
Strength training to build muscle has many facets and chasing after bigger biceps, and thicker pecs can sometimes cause an oversight in what may prove to be the most important area of your physique; your core. While it is true that the muscles of the core do receive indirect stimulation while performing exercises such as the dead lift or squat, failing to train them directly may be hindering the development in other areas of your physique. A strong, healthy core provides you with the necessary stability to execute perfectly in other lifts and could quite possibly be the one component holding you back from a world-class physique.
Consider giving the following exercises a place at the center of your program.
Hanging Leg Raises: This exercise can be used to directly stimulate the lower abs. The upper portion of your abdominal wall usually takes up the resistance first on most core exercises, which is why I like to focus on the lower part first by doing these. Set yourself up on a Roman chair or sit on the edge of a bench, tilt your hips forward and drop your glutes back just a bit to initially engage the lower abs. Once in this position, raise your legs either with knees bent or straight legged breathing out on the positive for a good contraction of the abdominals at the top of the movement. A slight variation of this movement for hitting the obliques and serratus muscles would be twisting left and right at the hips as you raise your legs.
Cable Crunches with Rope Attachment: The reasoning behind this exercise is the same for adding more weight to a barbell. Added resistance creates stronger, more developed muscles. Your abs are no different. Using the resistance provided by the cable machine will give your abs a nice challenge. Set up by getting down on your knees and then grab the rope attachment with both hands so that you are holding it just above your head. Then with your back straight and a slight lift in your chest guide your upper body towards the floor as if you were going to touch it with your sternum. Thinking about touching the floor with your sternum will keep your hips back and your abdominals engaged. Again, twisting left and right will add to the exercise by hitting more muscle groups.
Planks: I’ve chosen this core exercise for one specific reason; constant tension as it relates to posing. When you are on stage and going through your poses, everything must be flexed. A knock on many larger competitors is their inability to control their mid-section, which is why I like to put planks in for ab training. Planks force you to contract your core muscles for a set period which is exactly what you should be doing while on stage. All you have to do for this exercise is elevate your entire body off the floor and balance yourself on your forearms and toes. Keep your hips low and back straight, and you’ll feel your core tighten up. For added resistance have someone place some weight on your back. Getting good at this exercise will prove to be very beneficial come show time.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that core training is a necessity and something you should put a lot of effort into. The structural integrity of your physique depends on it, and a stronger core means a stronger body. Finally, at the core of my program and my most valued tools are the products found at AST Sports Science. The VP2 Whey Isolate, Dymetadrine Xtreme, and Urso-X are just some of the products I believe are necessities in anyone’s supplement protocol and the integrity of which this company is based upon, and the products they produce will undoubtedly leave no one’s structure flawed.