Tag Archives: core exercises

Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important

Top 2 Reasons Having a Strong Core is Important

Posted on 10. Oct, 2010 by .

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[Photo by surfstronger.com – Laird Hamilton, Big Wave Surfer]

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.

back_muscles

[Back Muscles are a part of your core]

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.

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What is a Kettlebell?

Posted on 14. Jan, 2009 by .

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If you don’t have a clue what a Kettlebell is, here is a picture of the ones that I own (right).

8 kg and 16 kg Kettlebells

8 kg and 16 kg Kettlebells

Kettlebells (KB) can come in different colors but it is basically a round ball made of metal, usually cast iron, with a thick handle on it. Their weight can either be measured in kilograms or pounds and can go from 8 lbs and up. KBs originally came from Russia which they have been using to train their military branches way before KBs were introduced in the United States by the Russian strength coach, Pavel Tsatsouline. I can talk about the history of KBs in more detail but I think that the benefits of using it will benefit you more.

The Kettlebell is fast becoming one of the most popular training equipment in the fitness and entertainment industry because of its versatility. Ironically, I first heard about them while I was reading Reader’s Digest (yes, I read them…haha) in an article interviewing Katherine Hiegl (who is hot by the way). Hiegl was asked what she does to stay in shape and she mentioned that she works out with kettlebells twice a week for 20 minutes. I remember going, “are you serious?”

So, the curious creature that I am, I Googled the word “Kettlebell” and I landed on the
Dragon Door Publications web site. Back then, there were only a handful of retailers selling kettlebells and sometimes their sales people (try the kitchen section?) did not even know what the heck I was talking about. To make the long story short, I bought two Kettlebells one is 8 kg. and the other one is 16 kg. I also bought an instructional DVD entitled, From Russia with Tough Love, by Tsatsouline. I know, it sounds corny but it really is tough love. I highly recommeng this DVD too because Tsatsouline goes over all the basics in every excruciating detail to make sure that you train safe.

Beginners usually start with 8 kg (~ 18 lbs) for women and 16 kg (~ 36 lbs) for men. This is a good guideline to follow because even if you’ve been lifting for awhile, Kettlebell workouts can be tough. Unlike traditional strength training or weight lifting, KBs can give you a full body workout because you are incorporating several muscle groups in one exercise. Some examples of these exercises are the KB swings and the Overhead Presses. Side note: If you look at my video from the third Turbulence Training challenge, I was doing both exercises somewhere in the middle of the video. Some other excercises that are reserved for more advanced KB users are jerks, snatches and the Turkish get up which I haven’t even done yet.

Here are some great benefits of KBs and KB workouts:

  • Builds strength and endurance which can be great for sports training or just doing everyday activities like lifting heavy objects, etc.
  • Builds core strength due to the use of your stabilizer muscles
  • The KBs compact size makes it easy to travel with. It’s like a mini-gym in a ball.
  • They can be a fun, cheaper, and more effective alternative to boring cardio
  • You can look cool (or weird) doing some exercises because no knows what the heck you’re doing (that is, if you work out in a public place)
  • KBs can double as a lethal weapon…j/k but be careful with them if you have pets or kids…haha

So, now that you’ve had your introduction to the kettlebell, I’d like to leave you with my “light” day workout. It’s not necessarily light because I sweat profusely after this workout but it is a quicker workout than my regular ones. Here it is:

Warm-up: 50 repetitions (reps) with 8 kg KB swings

Workout circuit:

30 reps with 8 kg KB swings
20 reps with 16 kg KB swing
10 Burpees
3 Eccentric Chin-ups (lowering part only for 7 seconds each time)
I took a 1 minute rest and repeated the circuit 3 more times.

This workout usually lasts for about 20 minutes but boy those are 20 minutes of hard work! The good thing about this workout is I always have fun doing them. It never gets old because there are many other KB exercises to choose from which are just as tough, if not tougher. I can almost feel the fat melt off of me when I do these!

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