We have all heard that core strength is the most important focal point in fitness, but the truth is, not many people actually know how the core works.

A lot of people think that having a 6-pack is the symbol for a strong core.  But real core strength starts on the inside. Let me explain…

There’s a lot more going on with the core than meets the eye.

Your core consists of two parts: anterior and posterior core muscles – So what’s the difference between them?

To make it simple, the posterior abs are on the outside (what we can see) and the anterior abs are on the inside.

Posterior abs are what gain the most amount of attention due to the simple fact that if you get lean enough, they look great.  But the anterior abs play a more important role when it comes to core strength and helping your body function at a high level.

If you want a strong core, you need to focus on your anterior abdominals.  Learning how to engage and strengthen them is important if you really want to build strength and control.

Anterior Abs and Calisthenics

A strong anterior core is essential in all bodyweight movements.  Bodyweight training forces you to use your core.  Honestly, that’s why everyone who does calisthenics is so shredded.

But not so fast.

Even if your abs are heavily involved in an exercise, it’s still very likely that the anterior core is getting a minimal amount of stimulation.  Once you know how to properly use your anterior abdominal muscles, you’ll be able to create more aesthetically appealing AND stronger abs than before.

The stronger your anterior core is, the more effective your exercises will become. You’ll get better results from regular bodyweight push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and any other movement involving body stabilization.

You’ll have much more control over your body.

You’ll notice improved results without having to spend any extra time on your abs! It also adds a lot more intensity to each exercise which is great for eliciting results.  Calisthenics workouts require constant challenges to keep your body evolving progressively.

In the beginning, however, it is wise to set aside time to focus on how it feels to really engage the anterior core. After you’re well accustomed to activating the muscles, you can move on to utilizing these during your workouts.

Improving Posture

We spend a large portion of our lives typing away at a desk or just sitting down in general. The problem is, it’s easy to become lazy and many people tend to slouch.

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There are lots of positions that people regularly put their bodies in that feel comfortable, but really they’re doing more harm than good.  We end up putting a lot of unnecessary stress on the spine and this leads to poor posture over time.

So how do anterior core exercises relate to posture?

Anterior abs are key for maintaining a strong and healthy spine. If your anterior abs are weak, your spine will become fragile.  A fragile spine leads to the shoulders rotating forwards and the back can form into an unnaturally round shape.

As a result, back pain becomes a regular issue and you’re left wide open to injuries. Strong anterior abs equal a strong spine. 

How To Use Your Anterior Core Muscles

If you lay down flat on the floor with your arms above your head, you’ll notice that there’s a slight gap between the floor and your lower back. You will also see that your rib cage is expanded.

This is normal and is due to the way that the spine curves naturally, but to engage your anterior abs, you want to aim to close this gap completely.

This involves forcing your lower back (lumbar) into the floor whilst keeping your core tight. A great mental cue is to try and depress your rib cage whilst breathing as much air out of your body as possible. This requires you to activate your diaphragm.

For most people, particularly those with weak anterior abs, getting your lower back all the way to the ground will be a struggle. Don’t’ worry, this is completely normal. Even once you’re able to master it, the position is extremely difficult to maintain. Having some patience is pivotal as it will take some time before you can achieve it. But once you’re comfortable in your ability to engage the anterior abs, it’s time to put them into action.

Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms overhead. Bring your legs to a vertical position and crunch at the core so your can touch your toes. Your core should be fully compressed. Now focus on keeping your lower back pressed to the floor (tuck that rib cage) and slowly bring your legs and arms down simultaneously. Keep everything tight for as long as possible – you are fully utilizing your anterior core!

Conclusion

Calisthenics is all about gaining functional movement and strength by using nothing other than your own bodyweight.

If you focus your mind on keeping your abs in a contracted position in all exercises, you’ll be shocked at how impressive the results can be in regards to both aesthetics and functional strength.

Start implementing anterior core training into your usual routine and let us know how it goes!

Professional calisthenics athlete and coach. Adam take bits and pieces from all the different types of sports and training he’s done over the years. Check out his newest program:
Calisthenics LIVE.