Core Structural Exercises – Introduction
What are core structural exercises?
Core structural exercises are compound movements that include major muscle groups and multiple joint movements.
Don’t mistake core structural exercises for core exercises. Although core structural exercises involve the activation of the abdominal muscles, they are not the same as standard core exercises, such as planks or dead bugs. Unlike most core exercises, core structural exercises are done standing and in an upright posture.
They involve the activation of multiple large muscle groups, not just the muscles of the core. As such, core structural exercises work your entire body and large muscle areas of your lower and upper body simultaneously. Therefore, they involve movements such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, and presses.
This post will reveal the 5 best core structural exercise you can do for your health and fitness, starting today!
The Benefits of Core Structural Exercises
What makes core structural exercises specific is that they load the spine. This helps improve posture and core stability. They can even help with your back pain.
However, proper form and proper exercise selection are crucial. If you suffer from lower back pain or any other type of chronic pain, make sure your resistance training program is designed by your needs and by a physical therapy professional or a personal trainer.
The 5 Best Structural Core Exercises
The squat is one of the most powerful lower body exercises you will ever do. Even better, squats are one of the most effective exercises you can do for your entire body because it works a variety of different muscle groups. So much so that an overhead squat assessment is an important tool used by personal trainers to assess your fitness level.
Squats work many of the muscles of your body, but primarily target your:
- gluteus muscles,
- hamstrings muscle group
- adductor muscles group
If you do squats with weight, they are a great way to improve your back and core strength too. Such as your:
- erector spinae muscles
- abdominal core and obliques, and
- upper back muscles
The primary joints involved in this core structural exercise are the hips, knees, and ankles, making the squat an excellent multi-joint exercise. In contrast, the bicep curl is one of many single-joint exercises that you see commonly performed in the gym. Unfortunately for so many exercisers, a single-joint exercise like the biceps curl or triceps press down will never transform your body like the squat. So, when you have limited time to work out, focus on core structural exercises like squats and deadlifts over single-joint.
There are numerous squat variations. They can be done with body weight, with a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, etc. Also, there are different squat variations when it comes to weight distribution. For example, depending on the position of the barbell and the weight, you can load your body anteriorly (front squat) or posteriorly (back squat). Although they have a similar movement pattern, they work your body differently.
The front squat requires a more upright torso and thus more upper back activation. It also works your quads more. On the other hand, the back squat works your glutes more. Also, the back squat is technically less demanding and easier to perform. This allows you to lift more in a back squat than in a front squat.
Another great squat variation is the goblet squat. Just like the front squat, it requires an upright torso. This allows you to more easily get into a high-quality deep squat position. It is performed by holding the dumbbell or a kettlebell in front of your chest. This makes it a great exercise for people who don’t have access to a lot of weight or don’t have a barbell. Also, the goblet squat is a great exercise to learn how to squat properly. Poor ankle mobility is a common problem that is responsible for weak squats
The deadlift is a compound movement that works your whole body. If you want to build whole-body strength, the deadlift is one of the best exercises to add to your strength training.
There are plenty of deadlift variations. It is most often done with a barbell. However, the trap bar variation is a better option because it puts your body into a more natural position and puts less stress on your low back.
Also, depending on the deadlift variation, you can work your muscles differently. For example, the stiff leg deadlift (Romanian deadlift) works your hamstring the most, while the wide stance deadlift (sumo deadlift) works your glutes more. Therefore, depending on your goals and program design, you can work your muscle differently.
The most important thing during the deadlift is the form. So make sure you have mastered the proper deadlift technique before loading it with a lot of weight.
Deadlifts are a power exercise and require a lot of strength from your body. In order to keep your form good, take proper rest periods between sets. Rushing between your sets won’t make your training any more effective, but can affect your strength and lifting technique. Also, since deadlifts are pretty draining, after intense deadlift sessions it is advised to take a recovery day.
3. Shoulder Presses
There are different types of shoulder presses. What they all have in common it’s that they include lifting above the head.The primary focus of the overhead exercises is to work the shoulders and scapular muscles in the back. Having strong shoulders is not only aesthetically appealing and useful if you’re into sports and fitness, but is important for everyday life too.
The shoulder press can be done with a dumbbell or a barbell. The dumbbells are more beneficial because they engage more secondary stabilizing muscles and are better for muscle balance.
There is less room for compensations in the dumbbell exercises because each arm works individually. During the barbell exercises, the stronger side almost always compensates for the weaker side and does more work.
If done standing, the shoulder press is an effective exercise for your core too. The standing overhead movement is a great way to work your core muscles while also working your shoulders. In order to stabilize your body under load, your obliques and abs will have to work hard.
So if your primary training goal is to improve shoulder strength, but you also want to improve core stability, the standing shoulder press is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Lunges are a single-leg lower-body exercise. They work your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and obliques. They can be done with bodyweight and high repetition for muscular endurance.
However, if you want to build muscle, it’s better to do them with weights. By holding dumbbells in both of your hands, your legs will work harder and you will get stronger faster. Also, the loaded lunges require a lot of core stability. So they can be a great exercise for your core.
The advanced version of the lunges is the lunge with the load on only one side. By holding the weight in only one hand your obliques on the opposite side will work hard to keep you upright and stable. Therefore, lunges can be a great assistance exercise to your core training.
5. Bench Press
The bench press is the upper body exercise that builds your pecs and shoulders. It can be done with a barbell or with dumbbells. The most popular version is the barbell bench press. However, the dumbbell variation is better for building more balanced strength and shoulder stability.
During the bench press, the core has an important role in weight stabilization. This is especially the case in dumbbell bench press where weight is more unstable. To work at the same time on your upper body and your core, try a single-arm dumbbell bench press. This will really challenge your core muscles.
Depending on the angle of the bench, you will work your pecs differently. For example, the flat bench press works your lower pecs more. On the other hand, the incline bench press works your upper chest more. So for best results, you should include both the flat bench and incline bench press in your training.
What if I don’t have a barbell or a lot of weights?
You don’t necessarily need a barbell or dumbbells to build muscle. To build size and strength, your muscles need to overcome resistance. How you’re going to apply resistance to your muscles doesn’t matter. Whether you’re doing an exercise with a bodyweight, a dumbbell, or resistance band doesn’t matter as long as it challenges your muscles.
Each of these exercises can be done with a bodyweight alternative or with a resistance band instead of the weights. For example, the bench press can be substituted with a push-up, the deadlifts can be done with a resistance band instead of the barbell, shoulder presses as well.
What’s a sample resistance training program
According to your strength level, you can adjust the reps and rest between the sets. Also, the weight used will depend on your lifting experience and strength.
|1||Flat bench press||3||10||90 seconds|
|2||Back squat||3||8||90 seconds|
|3||Seated shoulder press||3||10||90 seconds|
|4||Incline bench press||3||10||90 seconds|
|1||Stiff leg deadlift||3||8||120 seconds|
|2||Flat bench press||3||10||90 seconds|
|3||Goblet squat||3||12||90 seconds|
|4||Standing shoulder press||3||10||90 seconds|
|6||Incline bench press||10||90 seconds|
|1||Front squat||3||10||120 seconds|
|3||Seated shoulder press||3||12||90 seconds|
|4||Goblet squat||3||12||90 seconds|
|5||Flat bench press||3||12||90 seconds|