Throughout the week, I complete several searches of the interwebz to find interesting articles and photos to share and use in upcoming blog posts. During a recent search, I came across an article from FitSugar.com that demonstrated 5 Yoga Poses for a Strong Core. The article synopsis reads:
Yoga calms your mind and increases your flexibility, but it can also strengthen your core and tone your midsection — just in time for bikini season. Try these five yoga poses that target your abs and back muscles.
I read through the article and viewed the slides, and thought to myself, “Ya know, this isn’t all that bad. People could really benefit from these.” I’m not anti-yoga, but I am pro-results. While yoga is great for mental health and can be very beneficial for flexibility when applied correctly, I’m not convinced it provides a great strength or metabolic stimulus. Unless you’re putting on weight at an endless pace, you’re missing out on the progressive overload, and because it’s largely a series of isometric or slow-paced movements, there is minimal metabolic impact. As for Bikram making you sweat; you’d be sweating if you took a nap in that 100˚+ heat! Someone broke their thermostat once, and turned it into a nice marketing gimmick.
While yoga is a good idea in a general fitness and wellness plan, it’s not the magic bullet that is typically marketed to women who want to strengthen, tone, and lengthen their muscles. If you want real results, you need to move more, preferably something that feels heavy. Today I’d like to re-imagine the FitSugar article as a strength training article, and share with you 5 strength training exercises that can help bulletproof your shoulders and hips; the keys to the core.
I’ll be honest, I had to look up the names of each of the poses demonstrated in the picture above, but I don’t think they’re very important. Sure, yoga is good for you, but strength training gives you a bigger ‘bang’ for your training buck. Let’s focus on exercises that look similar, but will provide a much more powerful neural and metabolic stimulus.
4-Limbed Staff Push-Up
I hope that this exercise-swap isn’t a surprise, because the 4-Limbed Staff looks exactly like the bottom of a push-up position. There are several advantages to holding that position, and I’m a fan of completing EQI’s when appropriate. Instead, focus on a basic push-up. It’s essentially an isometric plank that moves up and down, so your abs get rocked while you develop strength in the chest, upper back, and arms.
Boat Straight Leg Sit Up or Reverse Crunch
Most folks don’t have the core strength to hold the Boat pose in a position without severe lumbar flexion. A little bit here-and-there shouldn’t be too detrimental, but problems arise when people spend long periods of time flirting with end-range flexion. Instead of struggling through the Boat pose, you can use the Straight Leg Sit Up, or the Reverse Crunch.
The Straight Leg Sit Up is akin to a traditional crunch, but helps prevent the seizure-like movements that people typical use. The Reverse Crunch is a good idea for those with anterior pelvic tilt issues. Both videos are blow:
Warrior 3 Single Leg Deadlift
Single Leg Deadlifts are quickly rising on the list of exercises I should have earned earlier. They kick my butt, but it’s well worth it. You can address left/right asymmetries in the hip hinge, and there are a number of loading options that let you address stability through the shoulders, trunk, and hips. Below you’ll see two videos; the first is a an explanation of the single leg deadlift from Steve Cotter, and the second is a clip from Max Shank doing single leg deadlifts with a 315lb barbell and 295lbs in kettlebells. Who said single leg training couldn’t make you stronger?
Headstand B Waiters Walk
There are numerous benefits to loaded carries, and the waiters walk may be one of the most beneficial step-per-step. You can develop scapular stability if you’re packing your shoulders, and it helps encourage proper posture. Since they strength the shoulder girdle, Waiters walks can benefit practically everybody, and can be applied to a variety of training contexts. Below you’ll see a basic two handed waiters walk, and I’ve added the Kneeling Overhead Press to Standing, which is Tony Gentilcore’s blog post for the day; great timing this morning!
Crow Hand Stand (Push Up)
The Crow pose could help develop shoulder strength, but it’s not done in a posture that’s conducive to joint integrity and movement. Instead, try a handstand or handstand pushup that can help keep a tall posture while developing strength through the shoulders and upper back. I’m not a huge fan of the synchronized swimming (aka kipping) handstand push-up that you would find at a Crossfit WOD, but do feel it’s a valuable tool when done slow and under control. I’ve used it frequently when I don’t have access to heavy weights to overhead press, and it’s a great substitute.
There you have it, folks, 7 great exercises that would be the strength and conditioning components of FitSugar’s 5 Yoga Poses for a Strong Core. Hopefully you have a chance to apply those to your own training and have some fun. Here’s to moving more, getting stronger, and being healthier.