What is the core?
The core is comprised of all the muscles in the center of the body- glutes, pelvis, back and abdominal musculature. The core muscles function continuously while we move, sit and stand. Since the muscles of the core are always active, it makes sense that we do not isolate these muscles in training.
When it comes to training your midsection, start training movements, not isolating individual muscles
Two principles of functional core training
- Train the core before extremity strength. Get the midsection involved early and often. Activating the glutes and midsection muscles will allow the body to handle the workload more effectively. Also, you won’t be tired and fatigued at the end of the session and likely to blow it off.
- All training is core training. Next time you push dumbbells over your head focus on how hard your midsection is working to stabilize a solid posture. Go run a mile as fast as you can and see if you don’t feel your abdominal muscles the next day. Carry a heavy weight in your left hand and walk fifty yards. Feel the right side of your body and tell me how hard it’s working to keep you from toppling over. Throwing medicine balls, picking weights up off the ground and pushing sleds will put a lot of stress on the core. These activities are also very metabolic which means you will burn a ton of energy. The by product? A lean, muscular core!
Why do I need to listen to you? Can’t I just do my crunches?
- We need to work the muscles of the core in patterns that enhance motor control and coordination. Sitting all day and inactivity causes us to lose coordination. Coordination is often an over looked component of fitness, but is essential for a good quality of life well into our golden years. When your core is strong it provides you with more control and smoother movement patterns. The better you move the less wear and tear on your joints.
- Crunches do not train coordination and it places a lot of wear and tear on the spine. Every crunch has you flex (bend) your spine forward. That’s a lot of flexion on an area of the body that needs the least amount of isolated stress than any other body part. Yes, it works the anterior ab muscles, but there are better options. I provide you with a fantastic choices below.
- The core should be trained in positions similar to real life events or specific sports and activities we do. What does this automatically do? It gets us on our feet, standing like we were designed. The majority of our core training should be done standing, crawling, carrying and planking.
You are an athlete
Your athletic prowess might be on display during your Monday night basketball league or it might not actually exist in the form of a sport. You might be an executive athlete who works ten hour days and enjoys golf on the weekends. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom who is constantly lifting kids and bending while doing household chores. Life is the sport and a strong core is essential for you to perform at your best.
Core training tips
- Core exercises fall into three categories- flexion/extension (bending forward and backwards), rotation (twisting, pivoting), and stabilization (the ability to resist flexion/extension and rotation- plank is the most common).
- Incorporate one category of core training into your program daily. I.e. planks and carries on Monday, rotational exercises on Tuesday and flexion/extension on Wednesday.
- Or combine all three in a circuit at the beginning and end of a training session.
- If your training is designed to improve performance you will reach all of your physique goals as a byproduct. You will look better, feel better and move better.
Here are two very tasty core circuits for you. Do 3-5 rounds. I suggest trying 2 rounds at the beginning of your session and two at the end.
- Rollouts with stability ball- Tuck your tail (pelvis). You should have a straight line from knees to shoulders. Keep arms straight and roll out slowly. Stay tight and forcefully return to start position. 10-15 reps.
- Rotational chops – Start with handle directly in front of naval. Rotate with power, return to start position under control and repeat. 10-15 each side.
- Plank with single arm rows- tighten up the glutes and try to stay flat when rowing. We don’t want the body rotating. 8-10 each arm.
- Medicine ball walkouts – Same start position as the ball rollout. Take your time and walk the ball out from you until you are at a challenging position. Try 5-10 reps.
- High to low cable chop with rotation- Start with cable positioned above head height. Chop downward across the body, pivoting on your inside foot as you rotate. Do each side for 10-15 reps.
- Core rows- Stay flat, tight glutes and alternate rowing each dumbbell. Try 5-10 each arm.