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The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

Dave Cruz

Looking for a new core exercise? Try the overhead squat. While this may sound like a strange recommendation if you’ve never tried it—after all, squats are best known for building the legs, not the core—research in the lab has shown that squats and deadlifts can activate the ab muscles far better than many traditional ab exercises.

A proper squat requires tremendous coordination of joints, balance, stability and strength. You should feel tension throughout your abs (but still be able to breathe comfortably) if you're doing it right.

But the squat trains more than your abs and legs. It trains your entire pillar, which encompasses muscles from your hips to shoulders. Performing pillar-strengthening moves, like the overhead squat, will engage your torso while bolstering the most critical areas of your body for overall performance.

Moves for your pillar may not look anything like other “core exercises” you’ve done in the past. Case in point: The overhead squat. You're not crunching or bridging or rolling around on a stability ball. But give it a try and you'll quickly see why it's so effective. Watch your technique, making sure to keep your weight over the arches of your feet and your arms straight overhead.

Watch this video for a demonstration:

In addition to building your pillar, the overhead squat will reveal weaknesses you may have. If you feel your weight shift back onto your heels or forward onto your toes, or if you notice your knees collapse inward or your arms move forward, then there are areas in which you need greater mobility or stability.

That’s why we begin every workout with Prehab or Pillar Prep—to shore up weakspots, activate underused muscles, and build a more stable pillar.

Of course, doing squats alone isn't enough exercise for your pillar, nor does it replace traditional abdominal and core exercises. But the squat is a great indicator of stability and mobility, and it will make you stronger, not just from the waist down but throughout your hips and torso.

If you’re performing your own training program, include variations of squats in your routine, including split-stance and bodyweight squats. Or sign up for a Core Performance program to get a total-body plan including squat variations and other moves to improve your squat.

About The Author

Anthony Slater – As the vice president of strategic accounts, Anthony Slater has trained many of the top athletes in the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA, and LPGA.

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Tags: Prehab, Pillar strength, Stability, Shoulder, Abs, Back, Torso, Lower Body Push, Sports Performance, Resistance Training, Strength, Glutes