Almost everyone I speak to about core training says the same thing:
“Oh, isn’t that just a fancy abs workout?”
Well, yes and no.
Sure, strengthening your abdominals is part of the story, but core training goes way beyond that.
When defining the core, we are focused on your entire midsection, a “body cylinder” that covers the entire musculature from the mid-thigh all the way up to your lower ribcage.
Some of the major muscles that make up the human core include:
- Upper quadriceps
- Hamstring muscles
- Big lower back muscles
- Gluteal muscles
- Hips, pelvic muscles.
The abdominals, which include the abdominal cavity, several layers of muscles (i.e., the transverse abdominal muscles, rectus abdominus (“six pack”), obliques) do merit special attention – just not all of the attention.
The Holy Trinity of Muscle Building
Whether you are a serious powerlifter or in the gym to gain lean muscle mass, chances are that you are already performing some core exercises.
Squats, deadlifts, and the bench press, i.e. the “Holy Trinity” of weightlifting, are at their “core”, core exercises (with an honorable mention to lunges).
Beyond The Holy Trinity of Muscle Building…
Here are some other core training exercises that can be easily integrated into your routine:
- Pelvic tilts or thrusts, pelvic rocks
- Diagonal sit-ups with hips motionless for the oblique muscles
- 90-90 Leg Extension: Lying down flat on the floor, legs form 90 degree angle at knees; back and thighs form a second ninety-degree angle at the waist
- Bridge and plank-type exercises (e.g. single arm, 3-point stability position; single leg, 3-point stability position; 2-point stability position
- Twisting and rotating exercises on a Bosu ball, with weights or a medicine ball
The neat thing about core training is that you can perform a whole series of exercises away from the gym, with minimal or even no equipment!
Baseball players, weightlifters, swimmers, and others use core training exercises because everyone needs to be strong in the middle.
While we would never advise professional or weekend athletes to compromise their sports-specific training (i.e. power, speed, strength, endurance, cardio etc.) with 100% core training, real-life evidence has shown that a healthy core goes hand in hand with improved physical and technical performance – regardless of your chosen activity.
Strong and healthy core muscles are critical for injury prevention and overall fitness. As such, core training will:
- Strengthen joints, tendons, and ligaments
- Improve bowel function and reduce incontinence (N.B. Don’t laugh, the pelvic area is an important part of your core!)
- Eliminate lower back pain
- Improved posture, and help you towards “washboard” abs!
Even if you’re looking to build specific “show muscles”, you’ll find that integrating core training into your workout regimen will help you improve in all areas of your fitness.