The clichés are endless (“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” “A tree is only as strong as its trunk”) and, while we’re at it, let’s add another: “Your body is only as strong as its core.” Bask, if you wish, in your grand plan of building bulging limbs, a heaving chest, soaring shoulders and a badlands back, but that glorious dream will dissolve into the mists of illusion if you don’t have a powerful core—that comes first.
So, what’s your core? You can’t say it begins here and ends there, but, essentially, it’s the middle of your body: abdominal girdle, middle and lower back, erectors, hip flexors, glutes, to name a few. It’s the pillar of your body against which everything else is braced—the moral being that your body parts can’t lift weight that your core can’t support. Furthermore, your core is the only part of your body that gives you twisting power, or torque, without which you wouldn’t be able to roll out of bed in the morning, much less pick up that heavy weight beside you.
HANGING LEG RAISE
This exercise helps isolate and strengthen the rectus abdominis/hip flexors compound, relieving the back—and spine—of adverse strain and building more support for your core.
SET-UP: Hang from an overhead bar, legs straight, feet together. Flex your lats, abdominals and hip flexors to take up the slack in your hanging body.
ACTION: Raise your legs straight out in front of you as high as they will go, touching the overhead bar, if possible. Flex your lats and abs and decelerate as you lower your legs; this will help prevent body swing. Go to failure.
TIP: If you can’t raise your feet all the way to the bar, keep trying until you can; then, work on increasing your reps. Remember to accelerate up and decelerate down.