4 MORE Reaching Core Exercises

Last week, I offered up what I considered to be My Top 3 Reaching Core Training Exercises.

If you missed that one, definitely go back and check it out first.

However, as I alluded to last time, those exercises are fantastic – but can seem a bit boring and basic.

Once you’ve learned to master holding your reaching, properly engaging your core, etc., then it’s time to move on to more advanced progressions.

The exercises I feature below are still reaching core training exercises, but they integrate elements of dynamic movement as well. Whether it’s driving motion up top, or down below, the second you move from a truly static hold to a hold with dynamic elements, the complexity of the exercise goes through the roof.

So without any further ado, here are four more reaching core exercises I think you’ll love!

#1 – The ValSlide BodySaw

The ValSlide BodySaw is a fantastic exercise, because it takes your standard plank and cranks it up about 10 notches.

All the same cues apply here (reach long through the elbows, keep the spine neutral, etc.), but that subtle action of driving back and forth makes this exercise infinitely harder.

A few quick notes on the exercise:

  • Make the range of motion short and choppy. Too often, people want to go through this wide arcing range of motion, and I think it makes the exercise very sloppy. Think short and tight range of motion and you’ll get far more out of the exercise.
  • Be wary of your surface. Friction is not your friend when you’re using a ValSlide. For example in the video below, the rubber flooring has a ton of grip and makes the exercise very challenging. Start on a surface with a lower coefficient of friction*, and then progress from there if you want a different challenge.

(*I had to use that term somewhere – it makes me feel like that Master’s Degree really paid off.)

One final thought on the BodySaw: One thing I’m not sure I’m a fan of is where the motion comes from.

When you’re on your elbows you have a tendency to get a lot of flexion from one section of your thoracic spine, which makes it hard to hold that good “reach.”

As such, I’ve been dabbling with doing this exercise from a push-up ISO position, instead of on elbows. I’ll report back at a later time, but I think I like that variation better.

#2 – The Mountain Climber ISO

Mountain Climber ISO’s are a coach favorite around IFAST these days.

You get the obvious benefit of all reaching exercises, but now you’re integrating hip flexion into the equation.

Too often, the hip flexors are vilified for everything in life – from hip pain, to back pain, to knee pain. And I’ll be honest, there probably was a time where I would’ve shied away from this exercise (as well as the ones below it), too.

But now, I’m not afraid of hip flexors – assuming that they are working off a stable core.

A few notes on the exercise:

  • Get that nice reach position, opening up the area in between the shoulder blades. Hold it throughout.
  • Again, range of motion (ROM) should be short and choppy. I want to keep the spine in a fairly neutral position throughout, so I limit the range of motion early-on. As core stability improves, you can make the ROM a bit bigger.
  • It’s not conditioning! When I program this, my athletes often roll their eyes and assume this is performed quickly and for conditioning. Not the case. Instead, I want a slow and methodical performance – hold that top position for a 3-count (or a breath cycle) and do it right.

#3 – Ball Jackknifes

Ball jackknifes are another exercise that I love putting into the program.

And for some reason, most clients and athletes still assume that if it’s done on a physioball, that it’s better for the core!

This exercise is similar to the previous one, but obviously more unstable with the feet resting on the ball. Here are a few notes on performance:

  • Get the reach. Are we seeing a theme yet?
  • Keep the abs on. Sometimes people have a tendency to start sagging through the lower back on this one, so make sure they keep the abs on and engaged throughout.
  • Keep the hips level. This is a final piece that I see more often than not. Many athletes have a tendency to let their hips repeatedly shift up and down, which makes this more of a lumbar spine exercise than a core move. Think about keeping the hips level, the spine as neutral as possible, and moving through the hips versus the lower back.

#4 – Band Jackknifes

Last but not least, we have band jackknifes. I absolutely LOVE this exercise, but unfortunately, many of the athletes I get in simply aren’t ready for it.

The band jackknife can be done in one of two ways: Either bilaterally with a single band, or unilaterally with two bands. I actually prefer the unilateral variation as the band tension and movement feel a bit more natural, but it may not be feasible strength-wise early-on.

For now, some notes:

  • Reach long and hold throughout.
  • Keep the hips up. Depending on band tension the hips may have a tendency to sag, so focus on keeping them up throughout.
  • Focus on hip motion – not spine motion. Too often, people want to get a “full” ROM, but end up moving at the wrong joint. Again, I much prefer a short and choppy range of motion, that locks in the spine and ensures flexion comes at the hip, versus the lower back.

In all honesty, one of the hardest parts of this exercise is getting in and out of the bands. If there’s sufficient interest, I’d be happy to shoot a short video in the future as to how I do this.

Summary

I’m a big believer that smart core training is one of the missing links for ourselves, our clients and our athletes.

Whether it’s the basic versions from last week, or the more advanced progressions from this week, start incorporating more reaching core training exercises into your programming.

I guarantee you’ll see and feel the benefits!

All the best

MR

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4 Comments

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  1. Love these exercises Mike. They are all tough. How about putting a small weight plate on the lower back as a reference point for some of these exercises? Just a thought.

  2. I use these for myself often except the band resisted jackknife. I love that one and will try it tomorrow. I wish I could have seen your feet in the Alternating band resisted jackknife. Was it with 2 bands or just one?

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