Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Core Training is smart fitness training

Works your "core" more right?
What does the core mean to you?  This word is probably one of the most used words in the fitness industry.  Core this, core that, work your core, my program involves the core, etc.  Many people think the core is building a 6-pack.  To some, core training is using a stability ball or bosu ball for every exercise they perform.  This article will define what the core actually is and give you some strategies in integrating “core training” into your program.  
Is this "core"?
The “core” incorporates many muscles.  It’s not just “ab” training.  Proper core development teaches the entire body to cohesively work together.  If our “core” has weakness, we limit the use of our lower and upper body strength and power.  

The word core is defined as the innermost, most essential part of anything (   

So, the core of the body envelops muscles that we never see.  The inner core incorporates the Multifidis (small spinal muscles), transverse abdominals (built in “weight belt”), pelvic floor (small muscles lining the pelvis) and the diaphragm (skeletal muscle used for respiration function).  These are muscles that we will never see but when functioning properly can aide in athletic development, optimal everyday living, deep strength and stability and overall strength development.  


Here are four tactics to implement into your lifestyle for proper core development:

1.     Deep abdominal breathing practice.  Enhancing diaphragm function is a major skill to improve.  Two big things with diaphragm strengthening: 1) You will take in oxygen more efficiently and 2) It will increase thoracic spine (12 mid-spine vertebrae) function.  It can open up many pathways to better movement and coordination.  Simply lie on your back, bend your knees, and place one had on your belly button and one hand on your chest.  When exhaling, push strong air through your stomach first (your bottom hand will rise), trying to expand out and to the sides of your “ab wall”; and then allow air to flow to the chest.  You do not want your shoulders shrugging when breathing.   Perform 5-15 deep breaths a few times during the day.      

2.     Posture reinforcement.  Yes, posture works your core!  We can do “ab” exercises till we are blue in the face but if they do not promote good posture we are in trouble.  When sitting, remember to sit up tall, proud and straight up.  Do not slouch in your chair because this puts major stress on your lower back, shoulders and neck.  When standing, use both legs equally, stand tall, shoulders up and bring your neck in line with the shoulders.  Always remember, posture, posture, posture!  

Good posture = Function, Bad Posture = stress and loads

Be aware even when sitting!

3.     Technique versus volume.  When training, don’t be so focused on high volume “ab” work.  “More is better” is not the answer in terms of fitness training; focus on good technique versus high volume.  When holding a front plank, perform 10 repetitions of 10-second holds instead of trying to hold for 60 seconds.  Your form will be better with the shorter interval periods.  When performing a strength exercise like a push-up, focus on perfect form and stop when your technique begins to suffer.  Good clean movement is proper core training.  Poor technique and sloppy movement is random exercise. 

Cmon, bust out 50 more! (this is not the answer to a strong core)

4.     Cues to remember.  Whether you are at the gym working out or at home working on household projects, think about these core training cues:
·      “Tighten your tummy”
·      “Blow air into a thick balloon”
·      “Breath deep from your gut”
·      “Tighten your stomach as if someone was going to punch you”
Of course you shouldn’t be “tightening your tummy” all day everyday but when you are lifting, working or pushing heavy objects these are the cues to focus on.  


 Now for the fun part, some specific "core" exercises.  These are movements that could be seen as "unorthodox" because they are not typical "ab" exercises we see in the mainstream.  But this is cutting edge core training.  These are the movements I use in my programs everyday.  

1.  Pallof Press: This is an anti-rotation exercise that enhances spinal stability and decreases rotational forces on our lumbar spine.  


2.  Farmer Walks: Think of this exercise as a "moving plank".  Stay tall and tight as you perform this exercise.  


3.   Side Plank with Row: Side plank works lateral core stability; adding the row puts a dynamic twist on the move to create more stability during the move.  

4.  Core Rollout with stability ball: This is an anti-extension exercise that assists our deep ab muscles to stabilize our spine and limit excessive extension in our lumbar spine. 

5.  Birddog: This exercise teaches rotary stability.  DO NOT let the lumbar spine take the load during this move.  

So as you can see, core training is more than just busting out hundreds of crunches all day.  Developing a program that integrates core philosophies will give you optimal performance and a healthier body injury free body.  

For more information or questions, please email me at

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