WWE Divas are known for their badassery, body slams, and drama. What powers the performances of these female wrestlers? First, of course, there’s the attitude. But undergirding all those takedowns and locks is the WWE Divas’ core.
“Every single second of a match, your core strength comes into play,” says former WWE Diva Erika Hammond, now a celebrity trainer and founder of Equinox’s Knockout workout. “There isn’t a millisecond it isn’t!”
As a reminder, your core is more than your abs. Your core is really your whole “trunk.” So yes, your abdominal muscles, but also your back muscles and tiny stabilizer muscles surrounding your spine. Your glutes and pelvic floor muscles also come into play, since they are what keeps your core stable and aligned.
“Your core muscles play a vital role in stabilizing, moving, and protecting you in your everyday life,” Hammond says. “So a strong core is imperative for overall health and fitness.”
It’s also crucial in wrestling and other combat sports for allowing you to land a blow and take a hit.
“In wrestling you need to have a strong core to brace against resistance,” Hammond says. “Being able to effectively brace your core at different positions and speed during a match is imperative to help prevent injury.”
Hammond recalls how much core strength came into play when she had to “take a bump,” which is when wrestlers land on their back on the mat. Contrary to popular belief, those mats actually aren’t soft; they’re mostly metal and wood with just an inch of foam padding.
“It definitely hurts,” Hammond says. “So taking a bump [and] landing properly definitely needs to have the core engaged to safely brace the landing.”
Today, Hammond teaches shadowboxing in a new Equinox series called Knockout. The principles of core strength and stability she learned as a WWE Diva carry over into her own shadowboxing and in her teaching in building power and endurance.
“In combat sports so much of your power and endurance is derived from your upper and lower body but your core is what connects all of those movements,” Hammond says. “Shadowboxing is truly a full-body workout. Nearly every muscle group in your body is ‘connected’ to each move you make so during Knockout you are constantly engaging your core.”
So how did Hammond build the WWE diva’s core necessary to “take a bump” as a wrestler and land a punch or kick as a shadowboxing instructor? One way is by doing strength training exercises that mimic the moves she’s doing on the mat or in the ring. For example, doing a row at chest height with hand weights or cables works your back muscles similarly to a punch, so it strengthens your core in a way that’s organic to the movement.
Hammond’s favorite core-strengthening move is the extend sit-up twist. “This is a full-core movement, which works your upper and lower ab muscles in the initial extension and the sit-up then fires up your obliques during the twist,” Hammond says. “This strengthens rotational core movement and improves your ability to generate power from the core—much of which mimics your movements in boxing.”
Here’s how to train your core like a WWE Diva in the extend sit-up twist
Start on your back with your arms and legs fully extended.
Simultaneously tuck your knees into your chest as you lift your upper back off the floor to a boat hold position.
Rotate your torso to the left and right, then slowly lower back down to the floor while keeping your abs engaged and shoulders curled off the floor.