Over-complicated ‘Core Training’ Is Making Athletes Worse
With the rise of social media and the increasing use of the term “functional,” and “core training” – those terms meanings are now broader than ever.
Search Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and you’ll find literally thousands of different moves being termed as core exercises. With so many options at your disposal, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Especially since everyone online is an expert, and everything online is also true, right?(Sarcasm). Keep in mind that anyone, anywhere can put just about anything online. I’ve said this for years, “just because you found it on the internet doesnt make it right – or even a good idea.”
Coaches and athletes must not lose sight of the fact that heavy, multi-joint exercises like the Squat and Deadlift are perhaps the best core exercises that have ever existed.
When we use the term “core strength” it’s not just abs. There’s a huge misconception that core is just training the abs, it is not. Core training is hips, spine, scaps, even hamstrings (as trained with the hips). All the muscles that come off the spine.
You Dont Know Squat?
A Squat is a great core exercise. If there’s an exercise that will improve performance and improve function (and burn calories) that’s research based, its the Squat.
How you perform the Squat and how you load the Squat depends on the individual athlete, client, program, or even other factors such as injury, etc. There are in fact quite a few variations of the Squat.
People are looking to reinvent the wheel. Reinventing the wheel is causing injuries. If we just stay simple and go off what research says a Squat is a core exercise. It will improve function and reduce the likelihood of injury when done properly.
Core Specific Exercises
Typically, specific core exercises are performed in the horizontal position (laying down). This is an attempt to isolate the different core muscles. This is definitely ok to do sometimes. These isolated movements DO NOT mimic movements in sport or daily living activities. For daily living activities think stairs, walking, lifting, throwing, kicking, bending, and pressing.
For injury prevention and performance enhancement, I recommend targeting core muscles by integrated high-intensity exercises as the Squat (as long as the athlete/client is able). This is more functional and there is more carryover compared to an isolated and isometric core exercise. The time under tension (TUT) of a heavy lift like a Squat is also arguably more comparable to what an athlete (or anyone) will experience during competition or in life when compared to a Plank performed for minutes on end.
With core strengthening, you need resistance, and you need to make sure that the exercises are multi-planar, so the resistance comes from different angles, but the resistance needs to be sufficient to meet the needs of the athlete or client.
This isn’t to say lifting heavy totally replaces the need for more specific core training. Actually, not at all – it’s more to say that specific core training is no replacement for lifting heavy. Also, exercises which target the anterior core (such as Ab Rollouts, Dead Bugs, Body Saws, etc.) seem especially useful for filling in the gaps around heavy lifts like a Squat or Deadlift.
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