Turn Your Arm Exercises Into Core Exercises
Upper Body Core Training Progression

With a simple upper body core training progression, you can turn arm exercises into core exercises.

Core training is more than just working your abdominals and lower back muscles directly. You can actually do many different things to increase the challenge to your core muscles while you are lifting weights.

This page will teach you a simple upper body core training progression so that you can work your core muscles while you're working your arm muscles.

When you are using upper body machines, your core muscles generally don't work as hard as when you use free weights (dumbbells) or cables. Machines tend to provide lots of external stability, so your muscles do not have to provide extra core stability.

The core training progression works best with dumbbell exercises for the arms and cable exercises for the arms. Below is a description of the progression.

Upper Body Core Training Progression

There are 4 steps in the upper body core training progression.

The progression is:
Level 1- 2 Arms Simultaneously
Level 2- Alternating Arms
Level 3- 1 Arm at a Time, and
Level 4- 1 Arm with a Rotational Movement.

When you use both arms at the same time you are relatively balanced, but dumbbells or cables will challenge your core and stabilizer muscles more so than an arm machine. Using both arms at the same time is the first level and easiest on the core.

The second level is to perform an upper body exercise but in an alternating fashion. When you alternate arms, you add a rotational stress to your body and your core muscles and stabilizer muscles must work harder to keep your body stable.

The third level is to only use 1 arm at a time. When you have 2 dumbbells in your hands, one weight acts as a counter balance to the other weight. But when you only have one dumbbell or cable handle in your hand, the resistance will tend to pull your body into a rotational movement. When you only use 1 arm at a time you core muscles must work really hard to counteract the rotational force of the resistance.

The most challenging core progression is to use one arm at a time, but at the end of the motion you should add a slight rotational movement from the spine. By adding a rotational movement, the core muscles must work throughout the exercise to both stabilize your spine and move your spine.

Sample Exercise: Standing Cable Chest Press

A sample exercise that you could do this core exercise progression for is the standing cable chest press. By standing you'll work on balance and core stability and the cables will add a stability challenge to the shoulders.

First, try the standing cable chest press with both arms at the same time, then progress to alternating arms, then progress to 1 arm, and lastly progress to 1 arm with a rotational movement.

Conclusion: Turning Arm Exercises into Core Exercises

You can use this upper body stability progression with any upper body exercise to increase core muscle work.

In addition to adding this upper body core progression to your workouts, you can further challenge your core muscles and balance by adding in the lower body core training progression.

With the upper body and lower body core progressions, you can turn arm exercises and leg exercises into core exercises.

Yours in Health,
Charles Inniss PT/PT

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