“Core” and “abs” training are not terms that can be used interchangeably. Your “core” pretty much covers everything from your abdominals, to your glutes, hip flexors and even lats. It’s a long list of muscles that pretty much stopped when the person deciding the list lost interest writing it.
In just a minute I’m going to be sharing with you some of my favorite “anti-rotation” core exercises using a landmine. But first, you might want to understand why they’re such great core (not abs!) exercises in the first place, and what the heck an “anti-extension” exercise even is!
Core versus abs
Your core covers everything that controls or resists movement of your spine and pelvis, which is an awful lot. Core training is training with the purpose of activating these muscles and fascial lines in an integrated manner, getting them all to work together in harmony and sync with one another. It’s a beautiful thing that when trained correctly can mean anything from a stronger and healthier spine to a pretty badass right hook.
Abs training on the other hand is a little like talking bicep curls on back day. While you want to spend the most time hitting “big” core exercises, you also want to spend a little time focusing on more isolated exercises that hit your beach muscles. Both core and abs training should be blended together in order to get the best results, for back health, performance, and looking great naked.
To train your abs, though, don’t just think about doing endless crunches and sit-ups. It’s all in the right exercise selection and execution. For more on isolating your abs check out my “Best way to do crunches” article.
The anti-movement, movement
When it comes to training your core in the most efficient way possibly, think about the exercises you might be already using that force you to “resist” your spine or hips from moving. Since the idea behind core training is to enhance stability around your spine, pelvic and hip region, exercises that resist movement around this area are best – Think, spine, pelvis and hips stable, whilst resisting movement.
If you’re doing these exercises in the most effective manner possible, it might feel like you’re trying your hardest not to pass wind while out with a very attractive first date (sphincter tightening and all). When the set’s over (or he/she takes a bathroom break) you can relax as much as you like, but until then every muscle you’ve available has an important job to do.
I like many other Coaches refer to many core exercises as “anti-“ movements. I use these categories to classify them according to what movement you’re resisting:
- Anti-rotation – Exercises where your core is working to resist rotation of your spine, pelvis and hips.
- Anti-lateral flexion – Exercises where your core is resisting lateral flexion of your spine and a sideways drop of your hip (lateral pelvic tilt).
- Anti-extension – Exercises that engage your core in order to resist spinal extension, and a forward tilt of your pelvis (anterior pelvic tilt)
- Anti-flexion – Flexing your spine within normal range is something we should all have the capacity to do. But, we should also be great at resisting it. Often a forgotten component within core training, anti-flexion exercises are those that train your core to resist spinal flexion and posterior pelvic tilt. Your low back is part of your core and needs to be strengthened too!
Of course, there are exercises that activate your core to produce movement rather than resist it, but we’ll not be covering that today. Anyway…
Hopefully by now you’ve got a good idea of the differences between core and abs training, and how to classify your core exercises according to what’s actually going on.
Anti-rotation landmine core exercises
As promised, here are some of my top landmine core exercises which strengthen your entire core by resisting rotation. As previously mentioned you might now recognize these as anti-rotation exercises. By no means are these beginner exercises, but let’s be honest; if you read my stuff you’re not going to be a beginner anyway. If you are, or need to work up to these for any reason, then i’d recommend Pallof Press variations as a good place to start.
The landmine anti-rotation
These do what they say on the tin. Grab your landmine and adopt a tall-ish athletic stance. Press the landmine out, then simply swipe it left to right, and as far over as you can. You’ll find a point where you bring it over to one side and struggle to not rotate with it. Don’t. The idea as you swipe left and right is to resist all movement through your mid-section. Stay proud-chested, keep your core maximally engaged, and resist the landmine wanting to pull you down.
The squat anti-rotation might look a little “circus-like”, but trust me when I say we’re not squatting here for the sake of squatting, or just to make it “hard”. Just like the standing version you’ll be resisting that landmine wanting to collapse your spine and pelvis in to rotation, and, to an extent, lateral and forward flexion. But, the squat adds an additional challenge. Your hips are having to do a lot more work to resist traveling in every direction. It’s also a useful exercise if you’re involved in sports that require good core strength in that low-down position. Don’t try these until you’ve mastered the basic version first.
Stir the pot
The landmine stir the pot is something I’ve been playing around with. And, to be honest, slightly hesitant about putting on the same stage as the exercises above. But I’m willing to put them in the spotlight for just a minute so you can try them out yourself. For these to work you need a short bar. In the video i’m using a Gut Wrench portable landmine unit, but you can use any landmine unit you’d like.
Named after the “stir the pot” plank variation popularized by Prof. Stuart Mccill, with the landmine as you “stir the pot” (think stirring a giant cauldron of your meal-prepped beef chili or something!) your core will be working overtime to keep your spine and hips stable. Smaller circular stirs are easier, while the wider you go or the more weight you add to the landmine, the harder it’ll be.
Program your core exercises as you would any other muscle group. If your focus is on endurance then I like to use sets of 20-30 with short rest periods. That means 10-20 reps each side with no more than 30-40 seconds between sets to recover. For strength or to build a battle-ready mid-section, sets of 12-20 with longer rest periods work best. That means 6-10 reps each side, and 1-3 minutes rest. The stir the pot tends to work best as a timed exercise. 20-30 seconds stirring in each direction is a good place to start.