The Best Core Exercises For Health And Longevity

core exercises longevity Feb 20, 2024

- written by Coach Will Safford

If you’ve done even just one workout in your life then you know how vital a strong core is for strength, longevity, and optimal health.

The core is the center of everything, linking the upper and lower body, producing strength, power, and stability.

It is literally is the source of all human movement.

The muscles of the core also play the key role of protecting your spine; namely the often-injured lower back.

Let’s look at the primary functions of the core before we explore the best core exercises for health and longevity.

PRIMARY FUNCTIONS OF THE CORE

FLEXION / ANTI-FLEXION

Everyone knows this one — flexing the torso forward like doing a sit up. The rectus abdominis, aka six-pack, shortens to pull the spine forward and down.

 One sometimes forgotten function of the core is to resist extension. In other words, to resist the opposite of flexion.

This is anti-flexion.

There is also lateral flexion, which means bending to the side.

These are both necessary and important functions that are required in sport and in life.

STABILITY

The muscles of the core also stabilize the spine and hips. They contract to keeps things in place and prevent them from moving.

High-functioning and active stabilizers are also essential for preventing lower back pain.

ROTATION / ANTI-ROTATION

Finally, the core muscles also drive rotation of the spine and torso.

Almost every move in life requires some degree of rotation, including walking, opening doors, and just moving through life.

Anti-rotation is the ability to resist the spine from twisting, which is also key for high-level performance, and is often combined with stability work.

THE BEST CORE EXERCISES FOR LONGEVITY

Now that we understand the functions of the core let’s dive into the best exercises for health and longevity.

1. 8-POINT PLANK (STABILITY, ANTI-ROTATION)

The 8-Point Plank was introduced to me by Coach Jessie Salas from Foundation Training. It’s a tremendous way to amplify the benefits of a traditional plank.

By dropping to the knees you can contract upward with the knees and downward will the elbows to really light up all parts of the rectus abdominis, especially the lower part that is often weak and underdeveloped.

Combining the 8-Point Plank with decompression breathing is the ultimate combo for pain relief and lower back health.

This move was a game-changer for my lower back pain, and I also noticed immediate transfer to my posture and performance in the gym.

2. COILING CORE (ROTATION, LATERAL FLEXION)

The Coiling Core is a movement pattern that can be performed in a variety of exercises. I wrote about it here, and the amazing benefits this move can have for your power and durability.

It was coined and popularized by the great David Weck, and is at odds with conventional thinking about flexing and twisting the spine.

What was formerly thought of as a position of vulnerability becomes a newfound source of strength and power.

I recommend learning to coil with a rope first, then working up to simple bodyweight exercises before adding loads.

Once you do, however, you will never look at core training the same way again.

3. TURKISH SIT UP (FLEXION, ROTATION)

The Turkish Sit Up is the first move in the full Turkish Get Up series, and in my opinion, the most beneficial part.

The powerful “crunch and roll” builds explosive strength out of the hole under the load of a dead weight above.

This type of strength is exactly what you need to create a strong, powerful core that will hold up over time.

If you need more reasons to master the Get Up for longevity read here and here.

4. CLUB PENDULUM (ROTATION, FLEXION)

Club swinging in general is an excellent way to improve your rotational core abilities, but the club pendulum targets the core better than the rest, in my opinion.

The Club Pendulum is like a lateral, or side clean, with a club — moving a weight from your side and cleaning it up to the standing position.

And only the club allows you to arc it in a way that is circular, which develops, what Scott Sonnon labelled, circular strength.

Essentially, this is strength in all directions, including the odd angles that you inevitably experience in life and sport.

That’s why I like the Pendulum so much, it hits the core in a unique way that feels like it prepares you for anything.

Plus, it fortifies your hips and low back in a way you won’t get anywhere else.

5. CRAWLING (STABILITY, FLEXION, ROTATION)

Your first form of locomotion as a human is crawling.

Crawling builds the musculature and coordination you need for more advanced forms of locomotion, like walking, running, sprinting, and juking.

It also integrates the entire body through the core. The arms and legs work contra-laterally, and are connected via the core.

Crawling also works the chest, shoulders, serratus, lats, and legs, while torching the entire core in the process. You’ll also crank up your heart and lungs for added benefits.

You can perform crawls in a variety of ways, but the two I like the most are braced core crawling, where you do not allow the spine to move at all, and coiling crawls, which is the complete opposite, flexing and bending the spine with each step.

TAKE AWAY

Life demands a highly functional core capable of performing all necessary functions; flexion, stability, and rotation, as well as lateral flexion, anti-flexion, and anti-rotation.

With the moves listed above you will get everything you need for a powerful, strong, and durable core.

I add core training to every workout and into every warmup. I also try to hit each primary function of the core in every workout and warmup.

Ultimately, you want to think of the core like a box, a front, a back, and two sides, with no part stronger or weaker than the other.

When you’ve strengthen the box equally on all sides you should have no problems with performance or pain.

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