When you think of core training for powerlifting you need to think about how the abs work in the 3 competition lifts. In the squat, bench, and deadlift the abs are working statically, which means they are holding an isometric contraction throughout the duration of the lift. There is no trunk flexion occurring like when you do crunches so it is important to keep in mind that when you train core you want the majority of the exercises to be isometric in nature as well. While there are numerous methods to train core, these 5 exercises have proved very beneficial to me and are excellent for building that midsection strength needed to master heavy weights!
Beltless Front Squats
he key word here is "beltless". The combination of the front loaded weight and lack of support in the core creates a big demand in the midsection. While the weight fights to bend you over forward you must retain a neutral spine position. By ditching the belt you are taking away a crutch to aid in bracing the midsection. If you try some heavy front squats without a belt you will feel the demands placed upon the core to statically contract and brace against the forward pull of the barbell
The way planks are traditionally done is a person holds the plank position for time, when the designated time becomes too easy they add additional time to the exercise. While this is a great way of progressing the exercise and developing the endurance capacity of the core to contract isometrically, it is lacking in powerlifting specificity. If you look at a squat, you will not be performing the movement for 30+ seconds. It will be something more like 5 seconds. Therefore the way I prefer to perform these is too hold them no longer than 10-15 seconds but add a bunch of weight to yourself. This will create a training stimulus that more closely resembles the main movements, a strong isometric contraction for a short amount of time
Whether performed on a stability ball or a slide board, these are great at building your isometric core strength! To perform these hold a plank position with your feet up on a stability ball. Begin to push away from your elbows, then proceed to bring yourself back to neutral. Your feet remain on the ball the entire time, the only movement is taking place in the upper body by rolling away from the elbows. These are great for sets of 10-15, or doing as many reps as possible. Good way to finish off accessory movements
Straight Leg Raises
These are often performed improperly. By totally relaxing and swinging the legs up you are not targeting the core, you are poorly targeting the hip flexors. To perform this movement so it lights up your lower abs, begin by hanging from a bar or arm slings. Next, get a slight tilt in your hips. You want to think about turning your tailbone up towards your chest. Now perform the leg raises in a controlled manner, bracing as you slowly return the legs to neutral position. Make sure you are keeping the tilt in the pelvis the entire time
Beltless Paused Deadlifts
This is another excellent highly specific core builder. By pausing a deadlift just below your knees without the support of a belt you will immediately feel the demands placed on your midsection to brace hard. This is such a great core builder because it will have immediate transfer to your deadlifts because of the specificity factor. Doing the main lifts in general without a belt is a great option for core training. I would recommend spending a good deal of the offseason on beltless work before throwing additional support on closer to a meet
There you have 5 killer core exercises that will have an immediate impact on your main lifts. Training your abs isometrically is the name of the game. The main role of the abs is bracing the spine and that is exactly what they do during the squat, bench, and deadlift. While flexion exercises such as crunches have their place in hypertrophy training of the abs, nothing will give you the same carryover as exercises that require static contractions
If you need help on where to place these exercises into a well planned training routine please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!