Do you have a goal? Any goal at all? You should.
Most people that workout have goals. Some want to slim down, others want to bulk up, and some people aim for goals that have nothing to do with size. Regardless of their desires, people usually want to be efficient with their time, get their daily dose of exercise and go on with their day. Great! We’re all on the same boat! Speaking of boats, have you ever heard the saying that you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe? Many trainers use it to explain the importance of core training.
What’s a core?
If we want to keep it simple, the core is where all your movements originate. It keeps you stable and helps avoid injury. The core is definitely one of the first areas you want to focus on before doing any type of exercises, especially if you’re deconditioned and haven’t worked out in a while, or in some cases, ever.
Let’s look at the above picture for a second. The green part, that’s the core. You need to make sure these muscles are functioning properly before going on all out biceps mode. You want big arms? Good for you! You want strong legs? Awesome! But remember, what good are they if you can’t even control them properly? You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe! Well, you can, but it just won’t be as efficient as firing it from a warship. Before using your cannons (extremities), build a proper boat (core).
See those blue lines? I want you to picture a closed cylinder in the middle of your trunk that goes all around your body. Now add pressure to that cylinder and what happens? You guessed it, your spine becomes a lot more stable. Trust me, a stable spine along with a strong core will work wonders the next time you try and push through that last rep.
How do I brace myself?
By consciously contracting the muscles within that blue line, such as the rectus abdominis, external obliques, and quadratus lumborum.
That’s nice, but how do I train all these core muscles?
With core-stabilization exercises. Here are a couple:
Basically doing exercises on one leg instead of both (be careful with this, start with no weights at all until you feel comfortable)
I already have a strong core because I do like 100 crunches a day.
If you read through this blog, you already know what I’m going to say next. Do crunches help you keep your spine neutral? Not really…They mostly work on your external core muscles without strengthening the muscles that help stabilize your spine.
How long should I train my core?
Many exercises already work your core, but if you find that you easily lose your balance and that your body just isn’t capable of doing certain movements without hurting itself, then step back for a month and focus on your core. Expand your mind, look outside of the box, play with the Bosu, it’s not all about the arms.
I’m too old for this
You’re never too old to work on your core. A weak core = inefficient movement which can lead to unwanted motion and result in a plethora of injuries (lower back pain being a big one of them), and in some cases, falls. Don’t neglect your core and you might just live to be 100 without being in a wheel chair.
Clark, M., Sutton, B. G., & Lucett, S. (n.d.). NASM essentials of personal fitness training.
McGill SM. Low back stability: from formal description to issues for performance and rehabilitation. Exert Sport Sci Rev. 2001;29:26-31