At The Core Of It All: The Importance of Strengthening Your Core
Tuesday, April 2014
Core strength – what’s it all about? Many folk discuss core training, yet often they are unclear on exactly what this is. People tend to believe that core training is simply doing crunches, planks and trunk twist exercises. These exercises can be great for assisting in the development of a strong core, but this is not the true definition of core training. Without the full understanding of how the body works, it’s difficult to fully understand just how important a strong core really is.
More often than not, the six pack muscles (rectus abdominis) will get all of the spotlight when people talk about the core, but the core is actually all of the muscles that attach to and support the spine, such as:
- Transverse Abdominis (TVA): The deepest of the abdominal muscles, this lies under the obliques (muscles of your waist). It acts like a weight
belt, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability.
- External Obliques: These muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen, around your waist.
- Internal Obliques:These muscles lie under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
- Rectus Abdominis: The rectus abdominis is a long muscle that extends along the front of the abdomen. This is the “six-pack” part of the abs desired by many that only becomes visible with reduced body fat.
- Erector Spinae: The erector spinae is actually a collection of three muscles along your neck to your lower back.
One can even make a case that muscles like your lats, glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors can be included as core muscles. These muscles all play a huge role in the positioning of the hip complex, and because of this they are major players when it comes to the body’s ability to produce force and stabilize.
So why is it important to have a strong core?
Your core’s job is not to look like the abs of a bikini model or look fly on the beach – its job is to stabilise during movement! Think of your core as the body’s base of support, or foundation. If the core is not strong, then your body’s foundation is weak. The extremities can only produce a limited amount of force when supported by a weak foundation – so up your core strength if you’re looking to run faster or lift heavier than ever!
A good metaphor for this idea is thinking about firing a cannon on a war ship versus a cannon being fired on a kayak. If you were to shoot a cannon off of a gigantic war ship, the cannon would fire to its full potential and generate a substantial amount of force. If you were to shoot that very same cannon from the kayak, the force production would be much less and the base of support (the kayak) would probably break or flip over! In simple terms, your body works more or less in the same way. So, if your core is weak and your extremities produce more force than your base of support can handle, you are going to move inefficiently or – worse still - get injured.
How can you build a stronger core?
Effectively building a strong core cannot be done by laying on your back, nor can it be achieved by doing crunches all day long. Ab work helps, but it is a small piece of this puzzle.
The most effective way to build a strong core is to get up and move! Perform lifts and movements that have limited support from an outside source. This means getting off any machines and benches, and getting on your feet – so step away from the gym equipment!
Exercises like squats, standing over head presses, lunges, pull ups, and bent over rows should all be staples in your training program. Most people fall into the trap of doing the easy and simple lifts. It’s useful to combat this with a qualified Personal Trainer, who will be able to assist you in doing the most appropriately challenging exercise to strengthen your inner abdominal wall effectively.
Get moving, and strengthen your core! Do movement variations that tax the body’s ability to stabilize itself. The end result? You’ll be stronger, have
less pain, move better, and decrease any chance of injury caused by a weak core. Who wouldn’t want to have a strong core?