“5 core workouts for a tight mid section – a beginners guide”
“The best 20 minute at home core workout to get you shredded”
“The 20 minute workout routine to get hard “core” abs”
These are just a couple of titles that pop up when you type ‘core training’ into Google. People want abs and they want to lose fat around their tummy and that’s fair enough! It’s these titles that work in capturing the attention of people searching for the magical key to that beach worthy midsection. Having said that; I’m here to talk about what “core training” really is.
When most people hear the word ‘core’, their mind is automatically drawn to the thought of doing endless crunches and holding ridiculously long planks. When in reality, core training should start with the basics. There is a massive buzz around “core” training these days, and 99% of the time it’s related to abdominal training, this explains why my above search results fetch the titles mentioned above. All in order to attract six pack hungry people to their page, and well, it works. Truth is, the core is so much more than the summer ready six-pack we all obsess over, and it should be treated as such.
Straight off the bat we need to get rid of this common misconception that sit ups is all you need to do for a fully functional core because the truth is they will only take your core so far. Eventually you will need support and strength throughout your entire midsection if you’re going to be able to lift heavy objects off the floor or above your head, without the risk of injury.
Anatomy of the “core”
The “core” is a collection of muscles, which act to stabilise and move the spine. Pretty simple right? In theory yes, but when looking at how many muscles contribute to this core strength and stability, it’s really quite complex. First we have the inner core made up of the muscles below. This group is the first to engage during movements such as breathing in an act to protect the spine.
Then we have the outer core. These include the most well-known abdominal muscles, as well as others such as your latissimus dorsi and hip flexors. Once again these work to protect and stabilize (being the two key words of the day). Although all of these muscles individually seem to differ from each other, when working together they can act as a very functional unit connecting the body and allowing serious force to be produced by your arms and legs. A big yes to being able to lift heavy things!
How does the “core” work?
Basically the core works to stabilize the spine, but how? When you go to lift a heavy object or perform any sort of movement, the muscles outlined above stiffen meaning your spine isn’t able to move excessively in any direction and you’re protected from injury. The spine is the midline that connects everything in the body, so you can see why it’s so important in movements like squats, deadlifts and over head press as they require the spine to hold its rigid position, so joints such as the hip and shoulder can move and produce force so you’re able to lift those heavy objects.
In order to strengthen your ‘core’ all you really need to do is let the muscles do their job and protect. Takeaway message: any training and any exercise is a core training – complete an exercise with good form and with the muscles around your spine activated and turned on and there you have it.
Into the specifics
Even though I’ve just given a massive spiel on how every exercise is helping your core, that’s not to say there isn’t room in every program for specific core training, there are most definitely some exercises that will challenge you more than others. For example, any exercise that requires you to stand will demand the most from your core musculature. As soon as you move from standing to sitting or even laying down, you give your body a surface to rest on, this ‘creates’ a false stability and can make your core a little “lazy”.
To get the perfect core routine anti flexion, anti extension and anti rotation exercises need to be included. Here is the low down……
Antiflexion – resist a weight that attempts to pull your spine into flexion (forward bending). Eg. Deadlift (10 reps, 2-3 sets)
Anti-extension – resist a weight that attempts to arch your back Eg. Tall kneeling overhead press (10 reps, 2-3 sets)
Anti-rotation – resists a force that rotates your body Eg. Farmer carry (50m carry, 2-3 sets)
Not sure whether you read this and think it’s a relief that core training isn’t all about sit ups and straight leg raises or the complete opposite. Either way, the core is much more complex than just that beach ready six pack and by training all areas and teaching your body to work as it should it will allow you to develop a more fully functional core and I promise this will help you down the track when it comes to correct technique, strength and avoiding injury.
Now that we’ve talked all about the role of your core during heavy lifts and exercise, stay tuned for part 2 all about the core and its engagement in every day movements.