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Why Your Go-To Core Exercises Don’t Work

Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, repeat… these are the key core workouts drilled into all of us since our physical education days in elementary school. While each of these are effective in their own right, when combined we can’t deny they’re a relatively complete total-body workout that can be done just about anywhere.

There’s only one problem — what if you aren’t getting the results you’re looking for, especially in your core?

Why sit-ups and crunches Aren’t as effective as you’d like

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you shouldn’t do these exercises, we’re just saying there’s more to developing a powerful core than knocking out a 50 crunches a few times a week.

A strong core is more than just for aesthetics — it’s the body’s foundation, and anything from running to lifting is positively impacted by a well-balanced, developed core.

To better explain the ins and outs of effective core exercises, we’ve turned to our core expert Christian Jonsson (just look at his Instagram, you’ll know why). Christian is better known an obstacle course racer (OCR) and CrossFit athlete, but here he graciously shares his knowledge on all things core.

How effective are isolated core exercises, like crunches and sit-ups?

I would say that isolated training is the ”best” way to get visual results because you’re using a specific isolated muscle that have to control all of your movement without help and compensation from the rest of the body.

I’m not convinced crunches and sit-ups are the best, though. Neither of those are a true isolated movement — in both variations you can make it easier by using other muscles and “cheat”. If you ask me, an isolated movement is a movement that’s hard to cheat.

But if you want to have strength to use for different natural purposes, you have to train more complex. For me,  exercises like GHD sit-ups, toes to bar (T2B), core stability through lifting, and running give me a complete core workout.

What are some innovative core Exercises people should try to break the sit-up and crunch monotony?

I really like to do core CrossFit workouts where the core is in total focus. This might include planche exercises, toes to bar, dragon flag variations, sit-ups and GHD sit-ups. Maybe 10 of each 10 times — it’s around 40 minutes and very effective and tough.

What is the value of developing your core, besides aesthetics?

The core is the absolute foundation to most of the strength in the body — holding posture while running, holding tension while the lifting, and all kind of stability movements actually. The core helps your body not bending in wrong positions during a specific movement.

I believe that a strong core affects all kinds of fitness areas, as well as it helps prevent injuries. Stability and balance is important whatever we do, especially while doing physical activity. With a strong and stable core you’ll be able to hold heavy positions and do not “fall through”.

What is the ideal balance between strength/cardio/core workouts?

I’ve always believed in an “all-round” balance. My workouts consists of it all: strength, cardio, and core.

I wouldn’t say you should give your training a set percentage for each — my workout philosophy is that every workout should be a balance of all three.

Some days I don’t feel like running, so then I go lift. And some days, my body feels sore and off, so then I do recovery run. Workout in a way so that all of your body is engaged, not just one part of it!

What do you recommend as any beginner-friendly core exercises besides the standard sit-ups and crunches?

Try toes to bar (T2B), GHD sit-ups and leg lifts hanging on the bar! You’ll have a hard time cheating on these exercises, and they are quite complex and will help you strengthen more than just one specific muscle group.


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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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