The core.

What is it? Well, I can tell you that t every single athlete I work with knows it is important. They know it is something they should strengthen and something they would like to have well defined, even “chiseled” if I may…like King Leonidas (one of the best movies ever by the way!).

 

(wojcicki.com)

But what many of us think about when we talk about “the core” is not all there is to the injury preventing, performance enhancing, aesthetically pleasing layer of muscle we speak of. In fact, many of us are simply envisioning one muscle. 

This one muscle being the rectus abdominus, or the “6 Pack Muscle.”

And while the rectus is definitely one part of the core, and it is in fact the muscle that may look like a vertical ice cube tray on those of us that are not sporting an extra layer of insulation, it is far from the only muscle that must be trained. 

So, what is “the core?”

The Core 

My definition of the core is the section of muscle and fascia between the hips and the ribcage. 

So by this definition you can see that rather than simply talking about the rectus abdominus, we must also include the obliques, transverse abdominus, iliopsoas, quadratus lumborum, multifidy, glutes, lats, and more…a whole lot of muscles!

 

(susaningraham.com)

Because it would take a year or more to actually address each of the muscles that are found between the ribs and hips, lets just focus on the key players for the concepts that are going to be covered in this series. Those being the rectus abdominus, obliques and glutes. 

These muscles, when trained correctly, provide a great portion of the true “jobs” of the core.

Those jobs being to prevent unwanted movement of spine and hips, transfer force throughout the body, produce spinal flexion, extension and rotation, and, to provide the aesthetically pleasing midsection that many of us enjoy looking at and would like to have. 

With that, let’s finish this intro with the greatest mistakes I see with a large majority of “core training.” 

 

1.Stuck in the dark ages when it comes to our core training.

When you go in to almost any big box gym, or throw in the latest and greatest core workout DVD, you will typically see tons of crunching, rotating, side bending and back extending exercises.

 

(stack.com)

And while we should be able to do all of these movements, repeatedly going through these movements, ESPECIALLY under load and/or with high velocities, is a recipe for spinal issues. These issues could be a herniated disc, spinal fracture and more. 

So yes, while the core does produce many of these movements, training your core in this fashion is old, and well, bad news!

Instead of focusing on “moving exercises” as your primary core exercises, switch to “anti-moving” exercises as your primary focus. These types of exercises include dead bugs, birddogs, planks, anti-rotation variations and more. 

 

2.Training the right exercises incorrectly

Some of us who are up to date with the fact that the core is more or less meant to stabilize and prevent movement, are unfortunately executing appropriate exercises improperly. 

This means that deadbugs, birddogs, plank variations and anti-rotation variations are being incorporated, but the the execution of the exercises are not reinforcing what they are supposed to be.

In this case it is usually the fact that we are relying on our rectus abdominus (again that sexy 6 pack muscle) to do most of the work, along with the muscles of the back such as the erectors of the low back. 

This leads to rectus dominance, overuse injury of the low back, and a less than optimally stable spine and hip complex…further leading to injury, performance decrease and also a “pregnant looking” midsection…check out “The Iceman.”

 

(theathleticway.com)

 

So, it is imperative that you learn how to use the obliques rather than simply relying on the rectus abdominus when performing even the best of exercises!

 

3.Scared of movement.

Again, here is another issue with many of the “in crowd”…those of us who understand that the core is primarily meant to stabilize and prevent movement. 

Because we know that excessive movement exercises like crunches, side bends, twists, etc. are not the best for our health, performance and aesthetics, we begin to demonize these movements and avoid them all together. 

Like anything else in the health, fitness and performance game, if you follow an extreme view on something you are typically missing out, and likely not optimizing your training. 

So instead of being scared to move through flexion, twisting and side bending exercises, simply make sure that your body (and core) is ready and strong enough to perform these actions without a great risk of injury. That happens by first training your core to do the opposite (stabilize), and then strategically adding in variations of flexion, twists and side bends…think medball work for example!

 

4.Thinking that training the core is the solution to our 6 pack.

Training your core for an aesthetic result is just like any other muscle in the body. You must place more demand on the muscles and force them to grow and become more defined. 

And the biggest piece that we tend to skip over is the fact that in order to see the core that you have been working hard for, you must have a lean enough body composition.

This is where nutrition is key, and following effective and healthy nutritional principles will allow you to change your body composition to less fat and more muscle…which will show off “those abs!”

 

(pintrest.com)

And when you combine solid nutrition with proper training for the core, you can achieve a tight, vacuum like appearance at the waist, and be able to see the hard earned core muscles that are protecting and enhancing your body. 

 

Coming Up

Now that you know there are a few things that must be considered and addressed when it comes to effectively, and optimally training your core, we will break down and go through just how you can go from a weak, suboptimal core, to a high performing, injury preventing and aesthetically pleasing one.

And for even more expert information and hands on coaching, make sure to contact me to sign up for the upcoming seminar Real Core Training (flyer below) where I will go over everything covered in this article series and more…everything you need to know about effective and results driven core training!

 

 

Even better, with the $10 admission fee you will be helping support a great cause as 100% of the admission fees will be going to the Homeland Heroes Foundation. 

Support our military, veterans and their families while learning all about how to truly train your core for optimal results. 

Share this article (and those to follow) with those you love and care about…or even just those you like a little bit!