What are the best core exercises? Plank, Deadlift or Chops

Mar 18, 2024

Should you train your core dynamically - with movement, or isometrically - without movement? In the tutorial above, I explore the best core exercises, covering things like planks, deadlifts and chops. And I offer plenty of practical tips to help you put them together into a workout or programme.


Isometric versus dynamic: which is best for core exercises

First things first, isometric exercises are performed statically. You’re probably familiar with the plank, side plank and bridge. But the question is, are these types of static exercises the best ones for your core? Or should you be working in a more dynamic way.

In short, the answer is you should be doing both. But in the right way – start isometrically and only progress to more dynamic movements once you’re ready.


Why is it better to start with static exercises for your core workout?

I often talk to clients about the benefits, both physiological and psychological, of starting with isometric exercises and then moving into dynamic ones. The reason is, isometric exercises tend to be some of the most simple core exercises. And therefore they’re perfect for beginners.

You see, a beginner's brain doesn't have the bandwidth to concentrate on multiple things at one time. This is the same for learning any new skill, it’s not something that’s specifically related to training in the gym. I see it time and again.  I ask people who are starting off with a new exercise, ‘where did you feel that working?’ And if they've just done a big, or fast movement, they will tend to say something like, ‘I was just trying to get the weight from where it started to where you wanted it.’

This indicates they're focused on the result - getting that weight from A to B - but they're not actually thinking about what’s happening within their body to make it happen. I want them to be able to understand the position of their spine and their hips. What’s happening to their knees? What position are their feet in? What are their shoulders doing? Have they got their hands in the right position?


Getting the basics right to build physical and mental ability

In order to improve this ability to understand what’s going on in our body, by far the best way is to start simple. It makes sense that static exercises take less mental processing and allow us more time to think about and feel exactly which muscles are working as we perform each exercise. We can then introduce small bits of movement such as one limb, then two etc. And with each change we can really focus on activating and moving only the correct muscles.

That’s why I talk about building up the physical AND mental capabilities and taking things back to basics, even for more experienced gym goers. Because while getting that weight from A to B might look impressive from the outside, it's not necessarily doing the right thing on the inside.

 As ever, this is not simply about the result, the process is just as important.


The best core exercises and practical tips to get the most out of them

So we’ve established that it’s best to start isometrically and then build the physical and mental capacity to effectively perform ever more dynamic exercises.

In order to achieve this, I suggest starting with the plank, side plank, bird dog and bridge. These are my four fundamental core exercises. They are perfect for beginners, and importantly, these four exercises can help you learn to feel all the different areas of the core working. The bird dog even begins to introduce a small amount of movement, in a very controlled environment.

After mastering these basics, you’ll be able to add other exercises depending on your goals. These might be presses, pulls, lower body exercises, lunges, etc. And we’ll build from there, adding greater strength, endurance and stability over time. For example, raising one arm from the floor while in a plank position, making sure to keep hips stable.

Finally, we build in more complex layers, such as speed-type exercises or chopping movements from high to low. We add the movement, master it slowly, then add speed. Because the key thing is to make sure you’re performing the exercise correctly and feeling the benefit, before increasing complexity.

I talk more about how we go about building in these speed movements towards the end of the video, so have a watch for more info.

It’s so important to understand all these different things to be able to build your core. It’s not about focussing separately on core strength, core stability, core endurance. It’s about understanding the mechanisms that bring all that together and create a quality core. One that is effective whether it’s exercising or not, because that way your spine will be protected the best way it can be in all areas of your day-to-day.

To Build you Core Strength & Stability 12-Week Program click here: Build core strength & stability 12 week program for beginners (christopherholetraining.com)


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