In fact, most gym users are so sure that the greatest core developmental exercise is a body weight move they would place money on it, such is the tendency for trainers to label body weight training with buzz phases like 'engage your core' and 'functional training'.
However, the king of core exercises was recently discovered to be front squats performed with a loaded barbell.
The barbell squat is the proven king of the gym, despite being the exercise most gym users overlook in favor of constantly hitting their arms and chest. Take the relatively small number of people who actively barbell squat on a regularly basis and halve that figure to get an estimate of how many gym users use this lesser known variation, where the bar sits on the shoulders in front of the neck as opposed to behind. It's a great move for strengthening the erector spinae.
A recent study in the UK, which was then published by the Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2011, directly compared barbell front squats to the superman exercise to see which returned the greatest strength improvements. The superman is among the elite core strength moves prescribed by most personal trainers and fitness instructors, so was a great fit for this particular case study.
While both exercises have obvious benefits and should both be used regularly, the surprising winner of this mini-battle was the front squat, with a 5% increase in core strength.
It is worth noting that front squats in this study were all performed with only a barbell - no weights were actually used. Given that this resulted in a 5% increase and when you factor in that by adding further resistance you will engage the erector spinae muscles even further, it becomes clear how effective front squats are in this category.
By hitting the erector spinae muscles very hard, you will build a very strong and tight midsection without needing to do countless crunches.
Do not be fooled by fitness fads and trends, which have seen terms like 'functional fitness' and 'core strength' conjure up images of people doing push-ups in parks, holding yoga moves like the plank or buying expensive suspension trainers to exercise while hanging from trees. Sometimes, the oldest tricks in the book are still the most effective and true success comes from learning how to marry those old principles to some of the new developments which have also stood the scientific test, such as high intensity interval training.
If you prefer lifting heavy iron in the gym then today's news will come as a welcome break from suspension trainers and shake weights. The latest research hails the front squat as the undisputed king, the best core exercise for developing overall strength and power.
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