Support can mean a lot of things. But when we are talking about supporting an active life that is free from injury, we are specifically referring to a strong set of abdominals. Developing the muscle groups that support, stabilize and engage movements of the torso including; the rectus abdominis, the internal / external obliques, the transverse abdominis and the posterior chain including the upper back and lats, along with a the knowledge of how to properly prepare to pick up an external load, is essential to being able to stay injury free and engage in an active lifestyle. This load could be your children, a dumbbell or barbell at the gym, a grocery bag, a box or anything else you need to move in a busy day.
Let’s discuss three torso developing movements that require muscle endurance and bracing proficiency. These exercises can be quickly and easily incorporated into your training at home or in the gym and will develop someone’s ability to “support” not only their own bodyweight but an additional load.
Planks are where you get into a push-up position but instead of on getting set on your outstretched and locked arms, you will setup with your forearms resting on the ground. You are facing downward with your back is rigid, your glutes are tight and your torso is braced. You will hold this position for a set length of time. 30 seconds to 1 minute is good and 2 minutes + is great. There is also a variation where you are braced on your side and preventing lateral flexion. You will roll up from the standard plank position to your side, still resting on your forearm which is now perpendicular to your body. Your top foot will be resting on your bottom foot. This variation will target your obliques more specifically. Other options include bridging and weighted bridging variations.
You will start this exercise by locking two dumbbells, two kettlebells, a barbell or two milk jugs filled with water (if you are working out at home) overhead in an outstretched position. Your arms should be next to your head and the implements will be fully locked overhead. Now, you will go for a walk. In a straight line, zig zag pattern or even in a figure 8 pattern. With each step, you will have to adjust with the sway of the movement and against the weight of the implements. This will force you to brace your torso to remain rigid and unwavering while you are moving. This movement is excellent for anyone, independent of your personal goals, as it teaches dynamic stabilization. You will also find breathing to be labored and your mental toughness will go through the roof.
The farmers walk has long been a staple in strongman contests. Because they load athletes while they are moving, strength coaches are now realizing their direct carryover to improving bracing, deceleration and absorption abilities. Farmers walks can be done with the athlete carrying a variety of objects including kettlebells, rocks, sandbags, dumbbells and even farmers implements. The idea is to load up each of the athlete’s hands with a weight and get moving. You can travel for a certain distance or for a specific time period. To make the movement harder, drop one of the weights and only have the athlete loaded on one side of their body. This increases the demand to remain rigid and unwavering while the athlete is in motion.
Try these exercises out to jump start your workout and improve your overall strength. Creativity when you’re not at the gym will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals and remain injury free.
About The Author
Jim Smith is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and an expert trainer who writes for Men’s Fitness and the Elite Q/A Staff. Jim has been involved in strength training as a performance enhancement specialist for over 8 years and has worked with athletes from various sports who compete at various levels. He has published articles about his unique training style and innovative methods for many prominent strength and fitness related sites. He is also the authored of three renowned strength manuals. For more innovative training solutions, visit
Combat Core Manual