The latest buzz word in fitness is core training. You probably hear these words thrown around by your personal trainer, yoga instructor or during news casts and weight loss infomercials as being an important part of our training for overall health and fitness. Before I became a fitness professionally, I didn’t really know what that meant. Okay, I thought it meant doing tons of ab exercises to get six pack abs. Wait, are you telling me I was wrong?
Well, maybe I was a little bit right about that way of thinking but really there is more to having core strength than just having six pack abs.
The Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important
Reason #1: Transfer of Movement and Energy
The core muscles are at the center of our body. Hence the name. A lot of people tend to think that this only pertains to the the ab muscles but the core actually also includes all the muscle groups that stabilize the spine and the pelvis (hip area) like our gluteus muscles (butt muscles) and erector spinae muscles (one of the major spine muscles), to name a few. Because of the location of these muscles, we transfer energy through each muscle in the core every time we move. From simple movements like walking, running, sitting, getting up, getting down, jumping, to lifting objects such as in weight lifting, you can bet we are reliant on our core to generate energy and facilitate movement.
Having a weak core can be detrimental to our overall health and fitness but having a strong core can give you many benefits such as:
- Greater efficiency during movements
- Increased strength and power output during weight lifting exercises where we use our core such as squats, deadlift, chest presses, jumps, etc.
- Improved body control, balance, and stability
The benefits of having a strong core can benefit us not just at the gym but more so in real life situations like unexpected falls or turns where balance is important. Using our core during jumping and running can also protect our back and joints by acting as shock absorbers from the impact generated from these types of activities upon hitting the ground.
Reason #2: Stabilize Spine and Pelvis
Our core muscles help keep our spine erect and our hips in the neutral position. Our abdominal muscles especially protect our lower back by stabilizing our spine during movement. Many back problems happen, when our spine gets out of aligment because of a movement done with weak core which can also result to even more problems down the road. This is due to the fact that the spine is our central nervous system’s main pathway of communication to other parts of our body including our brain. Messing up the spine is like closing the major roadway in a big city – a lot of things will not get done and pretty soon, big problems will occur.
What You Can Do Today
The most common and beneficial core training exercises you can start doing today are plank, side plank, and hanging leg raises just to name a few. Doing push ups is another great way to strengthen abdominal muscles even though it is more thought of as a total body exercise. In all the exercises above, a lot more muscle groups are involved instead of just the abdominals. This is a good sign of an appropriate core exercise which is also the reason I didn’t include crunches in the list.
When doing any static exercise like the plank and side plank, start by holding the position for 20 seconds up to 3 times each time with a rest in between and work your way up as you get better at it. As for push ups, you can start doing a modified version on your knees if you’re a beginner and progress to doing regular and advanced push ups as you get stronger.
Doing these exercises for your core will help you get stronger in a lot of weight lifting and body weight exercises and will help you prevent any injuries you may get from every day movement or playing sports.