Since you are not living under a rock, you have heard the terms “core” and “core training” and, you even know the importance of core strength as well as training your core. Buzzwords “core” and “core training” get thrown around more than they should. There is a lot of variation in what most people mean when they use those buzzwords. Unfortunately, there are lots of variations on how to properly train your “core” as well.
Questions You Might Want To Ask Yourself:
Are you clear on what muscles make up the core? Do you know how to avoid imbalances? Are you following a safe progression of exercises when it comes to core strengthening? Do you just find random exercises and core workouts online and do them?
If you are unsure what the answers are to the above questions – you might want to do some research – and continue reading below.
Core Muscle Make-up
A person’s “core” is divided into two separate units. Each unit has its own unique purpose. Knowing the function of each unit and what muscles make up the core will help guide you in designing safe, effective exercise progressions for you Fitness DIY’ers.
First Unit / The Inner Unit
The inner unit is mostly used for fine segmental stabilization of the spine. The inner unit is composed of the transverse abdominis, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and lower back muscles, including the multifidus, longissimus and iliocostal.
Second Unit / The Outer Unit
The outer unit provides more mobility, gross stabilization and motor control during exercise and more intense movement activities. The outer unit is composed of the rectus abdominis, spinal erector muscles, external and internal obliques, quadratus lumborum, and even the glutes, hip flexors and hamstrings.
It is not uncommon for the outer core unit to be stronger than the inner unit.
The inner-core muscles in many people are weakened. A sedentary lifestyle of sitting at desks all day means that these essential muscles are no longer used with activities of daily living as they were in the past. Also, individuals training for recreation in the gym often neglect these muscles and train the ‘mirror muscles,’ creating imbalances over time.
I have also found that core strength might not be the problem issue. The lack of neurological recruitment of inner-unit muscles is the issue. What does that mean? The brain is not used to needing to get those muscles firing. This causes more injuries to people than just the lack of strength itself, as the spine is not stabilized when movements are initiated.
Too Much Too Soon or Just Right
There is a tendency to progress through core strengthening too quickly, introducing advanced exercises too soon. This makes the outer unit is stronger, more advanced neurologically. It takes over and the inner unit is further neglected, further exacerbating the muscular imbalance between the two units.
I see many people progressing into extremely difficult ab exercises, such as sit-up variations, ab rollouts and hanging leg rises without understanding form or coordination of the exercise. I understand the allure of wanting great-looking abs and not wanting to get bored at the gym. However, both are done at the cost of spine health. Advanced ab work too soon may not be a problem initially, but it will catch up to you over time.
The stabilization work that is essential for building a balanced body is quite often the least exciting and less ‘sexy’ part of a workout. Because of this, most people don’t do exercises that don’t really feel like exercise to them. To be more precise, what they perceive exercise should be based on the media’s depiction of false facts and partial science. It takes almost a deconditioning process of the mind to get on board with doing the little things that will make a big difference in the long run.
Change Your Mindset
We can work the core muscles all day long – and should. One of the most effective ways to train the inner core is to constantly think about bracing the core while doing other exercises that require higher stability, such as squatting or overhead pressing.
My mindset for the core is that your core is always working. Even when you’re doing the stuff like squats, step-ups and lunges you should be focusing on keeping “tight.”
Locate / Activate / Move
Stop and “locate” the transverse abdominis muscle. “Activate” by pulling the belly button through to the spine. Then finally “Move” and perform the exercise. Also, beware of holding a position, such as the plank, for a designated length of time. If you hold the plank for one minute, but after 10 seconds, the abdominal muscles are no longer engaged, you’re defeating the purpose of the exercise.
Wrapping It Up
Take the time to educate yourself about the reasoning behind your exercise choices. Understand progression and why it’s important to build a strong foundation before moving on to other, more advanced exercises.
Its lots to understand and we help people all the time! If you have questions about how to effectively and safely workout, please ask us for help! Its what we do!
Contact us at: www.lakecountrytraining.com