Try This Essential Core Exercise for Weightlifters and Powerlifters

Dr. Aaron Horschig, DPT, of Squat University has become a go-to source for physical therapy advice for guys who lift heavy. He helped reigning World’s Strongest Man Martins Licis rehab injuries from lifting, and has offered guidance on everything from how to avoid knee pain while squatting to how to improve ankle mobility.

His latest segment, featuring with record-holding Olympic weightlifter Darren Barnes, shows lifters some of the best core moves you can do to improve your strength specifically as it relates to lifting heavy.

Barnes demonstrates a clean and a front squat to show the vertical plane of motion that most lifters are in during movement. “What that does is it… makes us develop imbalances where our core stability is not as optimal as it could be,” says Horschig.

To prime your core stability in your warmup, Horschig says that he recommends the McGill ‘Big 3’ to enhance your performance and decrease your risk of injury.

But for post-workout core work, Horschig suggests lifters do the Single-Arm Suitcase Carry.

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“The reason this is so helpful is because we’re going to be moving through a different plane of motion than what we’re used to with most of our lifts, says Horschig. “So we’re going to be working on the weak link that we often develop because we’re solely performing our lifts in one plane of motion.”

Single-Arm Suitcase Carry
Grab a light weight kettlebell or dumbbell (10-20 lbs to start) with one hand and hold it on your side. Walk 20-30 feet, depending on what space is availabel.

For proper form, Horschig says to walk like The Terminator.

“Pretend like you’ve got a book on top of your head. You’re standing very tall, and you’re just going to be gripping that weight by your side. Pull your lat back and down, almost as if you’re taking your shoulder blade and putting it in your pocket,” says Horschig. “Don’t shift side to side.”

To maintain that vertical position, your core is working overdrive—along with other parts of your body.

“The muscle of your low back, your QL specifically, has to turn on isometrically to stabilize the pelvis to keep it nice and flat,” says Horschig. “The glute medius also has to turn on in order to make sure that your pelvis stays flat and your lumbar spine is straight up and down. If those muscles aren’t working well, you’re going to get tipping side to side of that pelvis.”

By creating this imbalance with weight on one side of the body, it creates more of a demand for core stability.

To make the move more challenging, Horschig suggests doing a march, bringing up your knees and also increase your weight.

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Upside Down Kettlebell Carry
Horschig likes this variation because the position of the weight makes the hold more unstable—and therefore more of a challenge.

Pull your shoulder blade out to the side, which is going to turn on your serratus to keep a vertical forearm as you start walking.

To make this more difficult, you can also march and increase weight.

“Because of the instability caused by the upside down kettlebell, this is a much more difficult exercise,” says Horschig. “Even though this seems like more of an upper body exercise, if your core is not strong and turning on correctly to brace, this kettlebell is going to fall over. The stronger core activation you have, the easier it is to hold that kettlebell upside down.”

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Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness.

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