I love working out in the gym. It helps me get focused and gives me the energy I need to power through my busy days. However, I’m very aware that not everyone likes being there.
Actually, let me be honest: I’m acutely aware of how many people downright hate the gym.
Today we have a question from one of my YouTube followers who wants to know how to strengthen his core without going to the gym. He’s a cyclist, so he definitely gets his share of exercise, but his chiropractor has advised that he needs to strengthen his weak core. As such, he wants to put more work into his core without buying a gym membership.
I must admit, I really love this question, as core strength is frequently misunderstood and inadequately discussed in the fitness world.
To Kettlebell or Not to Kettlebell?
In his question to me, this individual—who shall remain anonymous—mentioned that he’s thinking about getting into kettlebell training as he’s heard it’s effective at core strengthening.
I must confess that I absolutely love kettlebells. I have two of them in my backyard, and they are pretty much the means by which I perform the majority of my workouts at home.
However, to get the most of kettlebell exercises, you need to already have a relatively strong core. As such, this wouldn’t be the best first step.
Your core is your foundation, a pillar of strength around your spine. It supports your body and initiates every form of movement you undertake, whether that’s walking, swimming or swinging a kettlebell.
This being the case, we have to begin with stabilizing the deep core muscles—your transverse abdominus, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, and other elaborately named muscles—and for that, I generally prescribe what I call foundational-fixer exercises.
When most people think of strengthening their core, they think about having a visible six-pack. As a result, they start doing a ridiculous amount of sit-ups.
Interestingly enough, this eventually develops a posture and muscle tone that is similar to that of a cyclist—after all, doesn’t a sit-up in full flex resemble the position a cyclist takes on their bike?
In either case, however, the only core muscle that will be strengthened is the rectus abdominus, which is the muscle group at the front of your core. You have to go deeper.
Finding Power in Stillness
To counteract the effect of his practice, our cyclist—and anyone else to whom this is applicable—has to incorporate other core strengthening exercises into his exercise routine. I’m specifically talking about stationary exercises that keep the core muscles activated—planks, side planks, bird dogs, etc. If you’re curious, you can find a bunch of these abdominal and core exercises here or on my YouTube channel here.
I would definitely recommend that you check out the blog post and these videos or take initial instruction from a professional trainer to make sure you’re doing these exercises correctly, as you’ll be wasting your time if you make a mistake.
You want to make sure that you’re maintaining focus in the right position that will allow the right level of engagement and activation in your muscles.
For example, if you perform a plank correctly, you shouldn’t be able to hold it for more than two or three minutes. It should make you tremble, which is a sure sign that you’re really working not just your core, but your entire body.
If you want to really get the most out of your core training, I’d strongly suggest you grab The Flat Stomach Secret report I put together. In it you’ll discover 7 unknown (and smarter) ways to lose stomach fat and get toned abs. Plus it’s free.
Before you start swinging kettlebells or doing crazy exercises, it’s important to start with these foundational exercises. They push you to activate your small, yet essential muscles that are so often neglected. It’s these muscles that are the key to a strong core.
For the individual asking this question, I hope that helps. Give these exercises a shot and once you’ve developed a strong foundation, you can graduate to a full kettlebell workout. The good news is that I think you’ll enjoy both of these approaches more than going to the gym.
As a parting note, this is something I advise everyone to do at various points throughout the day: brace your abdominals to about 20, 25 percent activation. You can try this by imagining that someone is about to punch you in the stomach. How would you naturally react? You’d tighten up your abs, right?
What I want you to do is to tighten and gently hold that contraction as often as you can throughout the day. Doing this simple exercise—which you can do even while you’re sitting at your desk—is going to improve your posture and shrink your waistline a little bit.
Most importantly, it’s going to help you develop a natural muscle memory for a lot of those muscles that are so important to stabilize your spine and core.
Everyone should give that a shot.
Enjoy This Article?
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Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.