- CrossFit athlete Katrin Davidsdottir has always had a six-pack, but her core wasn’t always strong.
- The former Fittest Woman on Earth said neglecting her core led to a herniated disc.
- Davidsdottir now does a lot of core exercises, including deadbugs, side planks, and L-sit holds.
Katrin Davidsdottir does “a lot” of core training to maintain her position as an elite CrossFit athlete, including deadbugs, L-sit holds, and suitcase carries, she told Insider.
The 29-year-old Icelandic athlete won the CrossFit Games in 2015 and 2016, but she hasn’t always prioritized her core — despite her visible abs.
“I’ve had a six-pack since I was a kid and it looks great, but it doesn’t always mean that it works efficiently and that your inner core muscles are stable,” Davidsdottir told Insider.
While the abs are the exterior muscles on the front of the torso, the core muscles include the abs but also wrap around the whole of the midsection and include the pelvis, diaphragm, lower back, and hips. The core helps stabilize the whole body, and you can have a strong core without a six-pack, or a six-pack without a strong core.
The former gymnast said one of her biggest mistakes was not doing enough core training, which led to a herniated disc at the end of 2019. A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc, is where one of the soft cushions of tissue between the bones in your spine move out of place.
Since then, Davidsdottir has made ab-strengthening exercises a key part of her workouts.
Katrin Davidsdottir does a lot of different core exercises
To protect her back, Davidsdottir prioritizes the “McGill Big Three”: three core exercises designed to be performed before training, especially for people who suffer from back pain.
The exercises are:
Davidsdottir adds deadbugs to these, which is another movement that helps engage the core, as personal trainer Luke Worthington previously told Insider.
Deadbugs, as well as side planks, can also help build the ab muscles, especially if you add weight, bodybuilder Hattie Boydle previously told Insider.
In 2021, Davidsdottir moved from the US to Iceland to train with a new coach, Jami Tikkanen. Since making that change, she’s incorporated even more ab and core exercises into her training.
“We do a lot of suitcase carries, L-sit holds, ring holds, hip extensions,” she said. “I do a lot of accessory movements around the big lifts.” Accessory movements are supplementary exercises designed to support and improve performance on main movements, such as squats or overhead presses. Examples include Davidsdottir’s core exercises, as well as many others such as dumbbell curls, skull crushers, and split squats.
Suitcase carries are a simple movement that involve holding a weight in one hand, engaging the core muscles to keep the torso straight, and walking — and can be done in daily life such as when carrying groceries, pilates instructor Nathalie Hayward previously told Insider.
Davidsdottir wants her whole body to contribute to every movement
Davidsdottir said she is doing a lot of these accessory movements around her big lifts (like deadlifts, squats, or clean and jerks) to ensure she can perform them safely and keep making progress.
“I feel like I’ve been keeping my body so much healthier, and that helps with the big, sexy lifts,” she said.
As well as strengthening her core, making sure her glutes are strong and engaged helps protect the back, Davidsdottir said.
“A big thing this year has been getting my whole body to contribute to whatever I’m doing,” she said.