Walk in to any commercial gym and you’ll see countless amounts of people performing every variation of crunches under the sun, and give me a dollar for every single time someone performs a butchered plank and I’d be a multimillionaire.
The core, or trunk as I like to call it, is built to perform many different roles, all of which are vital for athletic performance. However, the main role of the trunk is to transfer forces from the lower limbs, to the upper limbs, and vice versa. In addition, the trunk is built to perform movements such as bracing, flexing, rotating, extending, and laterally flexing.
Now, most people already do all these at the gym, but probably not in the most productive way. An over-extended lower back, and eyes looking at your feet, is not the ideal way to train the ability to brace your trunk using a plank exercise.
Performing the big compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses all require high levels of trunk bracing, yet the ability to brace, and resist forces, is rarely trained appropriately.
How Should You Train Trunk Bracing?
A great way to train the trunk to brace is by using ‘anti-movements,’ and by this, I mean performing exercises that resist rotation, lateral flexion, and extension.
Exercise 1: Pallof Press – Anti-Rotation
The anti-rotation version of the pallof press is a great foundational movement that trains the ability to resist rotation, as the name clearly states. I love this exercise because it trains the deep, underlying layers of the trunk musculature, and demands stability through the hips.
Exercise 2: Pallof Press – Anti-Lateral Flexion
The anti-lateral flexion is an awesome pallof press variation that requires the ability to brace the trunk when in an overhead position, whilst staying stable through the hips.
Exercise 3: Pallof Press – Anti-Extension
One of the key movements you’ll find most people are weakest is through the ability to resist extension. This exercise is a great starter for those who struggle with getting the correct pelvic position in a plank, or go in to large amounts of lower back extension when performing an ab wheel rollout.
I love these movements because:
- They are performed standing up, which is much more applicable to most sports.
- You will 100% feel your trunk having to brace to do them properly without shaking and moving all over the place through your hips.
- They can easily be progressed or regressed through reducing band/cable resistance.
Once these basic movements have been nailed, you can move on to perform some more challenging variations of bracing movements, as well as other exercises which train the trunk muscles through movement, rather than resisting movement, which Include:
- Single-Arm Farmers Carry
- Ab Wheel Rollout
- Plate Press
- Hollow Hold
- Band/Cable Rotation (low, middle, or high setting)
- Reverse Crunch
- Swiss Ball Pike
- Hanging Leg Raise
- Side Hip Thrust
- Landmine Rotation
These exercises I’ve listed are just the tip of the iceberg, there’s hundreds more variations out there and there’s no limit to what you can do!
Overall, getting strong through being able to properly brace the trunk is one of the most underutilised training parameters. But a strong foundation will hold you in good stead for a bigger, better, and most importantly, healthier physical profile in the future.
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