The Core Exercise Trainers Love (No, It’s Not A Plank)

We’re not here to play games: The truth is, there’s no magical workout move that does it all. However, there are certain exercises that set you up to move better and lift things more easily. Many of these involve strengthening your core, because a strong midsection is essential for every workout, sport, and fitness activity — not to mention daily life. And that’s where the core reach (also known as the dead-bug exercise) comes in.
This move — think of it as a flipped-over version of a moving plank — is functional, safe, and strengthens the same muscles you use for everything from doing squats to hauling groceries. It’s also especially useful for runners because it teaches trunk stability and control while you’re moving your arms and legs in opposition. This mirrors what you do when you’re walking and running, explains Ashleigh Kast, trainer at Drive Clubs in New York City and founder of Sophisticated Strength. This stability helps establish a more efficient stride pattern that controls breathing and prevents lower back pain often caused by poor running form.
You can include the core reach as part of your warm-up before a gym workout or run, or try it as a quick exercise first thing in the morning. Plus, it’s simple to increase or decrease the intensity level depending on where you are in your fitness journey. Just lace up a pair of supportive and cushiony adidas UltraBOOST X sneakers and follow along with brand ambassador Jera Foster-Fell. Time to kick-start your workout.
The Core Reach
Start lying on your back with arms extended straight in the air with wrists over shoulders. Bend your knees to a tabletop position, making 90-degree angles with your shins parallel to the floor. While pushing your low back against the ground, extend your right arm overhead and your left leg outward until they hover a few inches off the floor, but not so low that your back arches. Immediately return to the starting position, and repeat on the opposite side. Do 10 reps on each side, alternating arms and legs each rep.
“The most common mistake I see people make is beginning with the back arched,” Kast says. Fix this by flattening your back on the floor before you start moving, and be conscious to maintain that position throughout the entire exercise.
“This move is an amazing opportunity to begin linking your breath to your movement, which is key for mastering any exercise or sport,” says Kast. Inhale as you lower your arm and leg and exhale as you pull them back in.
Just Getting Started? Try This Beginner-Friendly Variation
Keep your arms extended by your sides on the ground or directly overhead. Bring your legs into that same tabletop position and — keeping your knees bent at 90 degrees — lower your right heel to tap the ground. Return your leg to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg. By shortening the length of your legs, you reduce the load on your core, thus requiring less stability, and you’re using your arms to help you balance. Do 10 reps on each side, alternating legs each rep.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY MAGDALENA KMIECIK
For More Of A Challenge, Add Some Weight
While holding a five- to 10-pound medicine ball (a kettlebell or single dumbbell does the job, too), extend your arms directly above your head and perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms in place while extending one leg at a time. The goal here is to create maximum tension in the body, so imagine you’re trying to crush the ball between your hands. This tension helps stabilize your core and adds work for your upper-body muscles. Do 10 reps on each side, alternating legs each rep.
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