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How to strengthen your core with the kettlebell drag

If you want to get a strong and stable core, then you need to master the kettlebell drag

Get strong by mastering the kettlebell drag.
Get strong by mastering the kettlebell drag. (Istockphoto)

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The plank has had an interesting evolution since it came to prominence as one of the must-do exercises for the core. From static holds, to adding weights, to creating different angles using the high plank or the low plank, this is an exercise that has come a long way. There are many ways to get the most out of a plank, including using it as a foundation position for other exercises. And one of those plank-plus exercises that you should add to your fitness routine is the kettlebell drag.

Using the plank position as the base, this is an exercise that will not just improve your core strength, but also work the abs, increase your balance, and most importantly, test your muscle coordination. Given that the exercise has to be performed with stable shoulders and hips, it adds the all-important rotation factor to your routine. And this means better obliques.

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“Stabiliser, mobilizer, and load transfer core muscles assist in understanding injury risk, assessing core muscle function, and developing injury prevention programs. Moderate evidence of alterations in core muscle recruitment and injury risk exists,” states a study called Core Stability For Injury Prevention in the Sports Health journal on the effects of core training. Limiting this training to just crunches or base planks means not getting enough from other movements like the kettlebell drag.

So how does one do the kettlebell drag? The first step is to master the high plank, or in simpler terms, know how to start in the pushup position. Stability and engagement of the core is key here because the second step is to take a kettlebell (or even a dumbbell) and place it to the side just slightly behind either arm. Now while in the plank position, reach with one hand across your body, past the midline of the chest, and drag the weight to the other side. Now the kettlebell is on the opposite side, so you will have to use the other hand and drag it back to its original position.

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The added advantage to this exercise is that the body enters a dynamic one-arm plank position for a couple of seconds between every rep. Technically, the kettlebell drag is an ‘anti-rotation’ exercise. “An anti-rotation movement is any movement that involves contracting your core and holding it completely still while keeping the rest of your body within just one singular plane, or direction, of motion,” says a WeWorkForIt article on anti-rotation exercises. It uses a basic example to explain how the body enters an anti-rotation position when one is carrying a bag in one arm and still does not tip over to that side.

Like any other move, there are levels of progress to this exercise. The most obvious one is the amount of weight to be dragged from one side to the other. To make things more difficult with the same weight, lower down to a forearm plank instead of a high plank position. Variations include placing your feet on a bench for the starting position, and if you really want to test your stability, then place them on a medicine ball. Another small adjustment, for a higher degree of difficulty, is to place the arms under your shoulders rather than under your chest (like you would for a pushup).

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There is also no compulsion to use a kettlebell to do this exercise. You could pretty much drag anything with a challenging weight. Former NFL star Demarcus Ware is a big fan of the exercise and suggests that one can even lift the weight and place it to the other side. The body will reap the benefits of it, as long as it is propped up on three points—two feet and one arm—and pulling weight.

The most important element here is to make sure that your shoulders and hips are stable and not swinging from one side to the other. No swinging, no sinking, and no rising up like you would while attempting a static plank. It is suggested that this exercise be done for time, rather than reps. Start with 30 seconds and rest for 15 seconds at the first attempt and keep progressing to doing it up to one minute.

The exercise progression can be felt by way of the amount of stability built over time. There is a clear indication from the body as you progress, which you will be able to feel with how static you can be at the hips. But for that, you should be doing this three or four times a week, before or after workouts.

Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and a writer.

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