Eager and ready, I signed up for one of the uber-popular Ab Crusher fitness classes in town with hopes that I’d find new, innovative, and unique exercises that would demand a different relationship to my core.The class was full of just about every version of planks, crunches, and hollow body exercises that utilized various weighted and stability equipment. Good stuff, but I was seeking a CORE class that would push me to think about how best to perform with a focused connection to the deepest part of me – my center.

As a dancer and Pilates instructor, core training can literally feel like the center of my universe. I’ve always been taught and consistently teach the idea of drawing awareness to the deeper set of abdominals (the transversus abdominis) when performing exercises.

Whether I’m training a client or working on my own regimen, I take the time to draw awareness inward and engage the deeper set of abdominals before moving through the circuit. It’s not only a more efficient and safer way to move, but it also strengthens, enhances, and sharpens your kinesthetic awareness. It keeps you centered and in the moment.

And there is no better weighted tool than a Steel Club to keep you in the moment! Be it a Steel Club swing or Steel Club press, we are in a position to learn how the body can best support this remarkable tool – the club. How we coordinate technique, breath, strength and flow depends highly on our approach to this one-of-a-kind weight.

The beauty and effectiveness of working with Steel Clubs lies in their design. It’s that disproportionate/uneven weight distribution that requires us to turn our attention inward, to focus on technique and to rely on the depth of what we need to connect to for each and every rep.

When we combine a deep understanding of core engagement and challenging exercises with a Steel Club, what we have is an extremely well balanced relationship. The uneven weight of the Steel Club forces us to take a “physical inventory” of how best to maintain structure and move effectively.

If we learn how to cultivate this connection, we are less likely to rely solely on using the superficial muscles to maintain structure. We’re given a shot at developing a stronger, more balanced body, one with a solid connection to movement. So let’s couple the Steel Club and the keen awareness required to maintain structure with a crushing, core-based circuit that requires us to dig deep.

Now that’s my idea of a unique, challenging, and smart core workout! There are so many invaluable Steel Club exercises for core strength, but I’ve chosen the following since they require me to place more emphasis on engaging the deeper transversus. Here are four of my favorite Steel Club exercises for strength:

Top 4 Steel Club Exercises for Core Strength

 

Core Exercise #1: Swings

The swing starts from a position that looks similar to a squat with a torso pitch forward (the silverback gorilla stance). With your position now properly established, pitch forward at the waist while keeping the chest lifted— remember to keep the shoulders packed and to maintain crown to coccyx alignment.

Begin to swing the Steel Clubs to the back position. The Steel Club should swing backward to about a foot behind the heels. The knees stay bent when swinging to the back position. As you swing forward, engage the transversus (drive energy through the soles of the feet), press the hips forward to a standing position, and swing the Steel Clubs to shoulder height. It’s that forward swing or top position where the money’s at!

It’s an explosive exercise. So the swing from back to front is the point when you dig deep to engage the core. Find your swing—your momentum! Try this exercise as part of your Steel Club circuit using one of the timed intervals below.

60 sec/15 sec break OR 45 sec/10 sec break

Core Exercise #2: Floating Squat with Steel Club Extension

Use the 5lb Steel Club

Start by finding a stable bench. Sit on the edge of the bench, holding one 5lb Steel Club with the right hand. The left arm/hand is going to support your bodyweight as you shift forward. Glutes no longer touch the edge of the bench. The fingertips of the supporting hand (right) face forward and the arm remains straight.

Keep the hips square to the front and avoid driving the hips forward. You should be able to draw a straight line from the tailbone all the way up to the crown of the head. Pull the lower abdomen in to support the structure.

As you float and engage the core, hold the Steel Club so that the elbow is drawn into the side and the arm is shaped like an “L”. Pack the shoulders down and exhale as you extend the Club to a forward press. You can choose to perform this exercise as a static Club extension, or you can press the Steel Club forward and back. Try this exercise as part of your Club circuit using a timed interval.

60 sec/15 sec break OR  45 sec/10 sec break

The key points in maintaining structure for this exercise are as follows:

  • Keep the hips and shoulders square to the front.
  • Keep the hips back (or towards the bench) by pulling in the lower abs. Keep the knees directly under your ankles.
  • Shoulders are packed.
  • Press through into the soles of the feet for extra support.
  • Don’t hunch!

Core Exercise #3: Bicycle with Oblique Steel Club Dips

Use the 5lb Steel Club or 10lb Steel Club

Start lying down, with the Steel Club at your side. As you pick up the Steel Club, hold the side closest to the knob with the right hand (left hand gets the larger end). Knuckles should be pointing up. Keep the arms bent and hold the Club above the navel. Bring the legs to a “table top” position. Draw the left elbow towards the ribcage as you extend the right leg.

At this point, the shoulders should be off the floor and the navel pulled in and up as you alternate legs. The side-to-side Steel Club dips offer great oblique activation as you move the Steel Club from a horizontal plane (center) to a vertical plane (side to side).

The key points in maintaining structure for this exercise are as follows:

  • Engage the transversus.
  • Keep the shape of the Steel Club exercise consistent as you move. It’s easy to get sloppy on this one!
  • Keep the knuckles pointed up. Avoid bending the wrists back.
  • Try this exercise as part of your Steel Club circuit using a timed interval.

60 sec/15 sec break OR 45 sec/10 sec break

Core Exercise #4: Sit-up to V-sit with Forward Steel Club Press

Use the 10 or 15lb Steel Club

Take a deep breath because I saved the best for last! There is no hiding from this one. Not only does it challenge the core, but the delts have a little fun too! This exercise really captures the gist of what I wrote of earlier—digging deep to discover how best to support the framework of the exercise.

Begin lying down on a mat with your Steel Club. The Steel Club should be positioned behind your head with the left hand near the knob and the right hand towards the center. Before beginning the exercise you might want to try a back and forth spinal rock to get a feel for the movement. Just remember not to roll past the middle of the back.

Take a deep breath in to prepare. As you exhale, pull the lower belly in, drawing the elbows in to the sides as you peel the spine off the mat to the top of a sit-up position. Once you are up, extend the Steel Club forward. Each time that you extend, be sure to “wring out” the Steel Club so that your elbow pits are facing upward. Slowly, take each foot off the mat to create a “V” shape. Drop your shoulders down, lift through the chest, and squeeze the lower abs in. Hold for 4 counts.

Slowly draw the arms in (elbows into the sides). Roll back one vertebrae at a time (for 4 counts).

The key points in maintaining structure for this exercise are as follows:

  • Keep the shoulders packed throughout the exercise.
  • Use your exhale! As you come to your “V” sit, use the breath to hold the position.
  • Pull the lower abs in and up.
  • Roll through this exercise slowly. The abs like it that way!
  • Don’t hunch as you come to the full “V” sit! Shoulders down, lower core pulled in, chest lifts slightly.