What are the core muscles?
Look at the right image…
Think of your rib cage and then your pelvis. Your core is made up of the muscles that bridge that gap in the middle. The ideal position for those three sections is a canister type shape.
That’s a very strong and stable position. You can breathe efficiently, the spine is safe and you can produce maximum force from your arms and legs. (As long as you can maintain it!)
Now look at the left image…
When those core muscles are weak with poor control, it causes problems. The lumbar spine becomes like a spring with no support. The rib cage is no longer stacked over the pelvis and can sway to and fro.
That’s particularly bad for lifting weights. Some people will have a tendency to round the lower back. Some people will tend to hyperextend it instead. Neither is good. It’s a weak position and it leaves the lower back very vulnerable to injury.
What are the benefits of core training?
It protects your lower back
The most important training goal is injury prevention. But we don’t just hope for the best. We must be proactive and train in a way that makes us resilient to injury.
The lower back is vulnerable when the core is weak and the spine is overly rounded or arched under heavy loads. It is even more at risk when the spine buckles and changes shape during an exercise.
For example, moving from a neutral spine to a rounded spine when deadlifting. (Never let this happen!). This creates shearing forces that can ravage your spine’s health.
When you have a strong and stable core and the ability to maintain the canister shape, your spine is very safe. Force is evenly distributed across the spine and powerful leg muscles. You can lift heavy, build strength and become bulletproof.
You get stronger and build more muscle
If the core is weak, it will be the lynchpin that stops you gaining muscle and strength. If you can’t maintain a stacked rib cage over the pelvis, you can’t produce much force from your arms or legs. Your body will also feel and be unsafe in its movements. This will only send very weak signals to contract muscles.
When you have a strong and stable torso, force output is maximised. Then it’s just a matter of following a well-structured program to make good progress.
It improves your body composition
What about getting a 6-pack? Well, the visibility of your abs will be determined by your body composition. The leaner you are, the more the muscles will show.
Nutrition is key, obviously. But so is the quality of your training. Proper core training will help you to get stronger and build more muscle. This boosts the hormonal response you get from training which helps to drive fat loss and get that midsection ripped.
What are the different types of core exercises?
Your midsection can move in 3 ways:
- lateral flexion
The core functions to resist movement of the spine, which means there are 3 primary categories of core exercises;
Core Category 1: Anti-extension
Exercises that challenge the core to resist the spine extending.
Example Exercise: Deadbugs.
- Lay on your back.
- Stack your knees over hips with a 90 degree angle at the back of the knees and pull your toes towards your shins.
- Straighten arms directly over your shoulders.
- Brace abs and flatten your low back so it’s flush with the ground.
- Breathe in to the belly before you move the arms and legs.
- Breathe out through pursed lips as you reach through one heel and the opposite arm.
- As you reach the arm and leg, concentrate on maintaining low back contact with the ground.
- Return the arm and leg to the start position, breathing in through your nose.
- Breathe back into the belly. Repeat this action on the opposite side.
Core Category 2: Anti-lateral flexion
Exercises that challenge the core to resist the spine from side bending.
Example Exercise: Suitcase Carry.
- Hold a dumbbell by your side.
- Stand tall with the arm rotated outward such that the elbow pit faces forward.
- Extend the opposite arm out to the side.
- Squeeze your fist and lats.
- Brace abs.
- Walk forward taking slow, controlled steps.
- Maintain a tall posture as you walk, resist the spine from side bending.
- Maintain breathing.
Core Category 3: Anti-rotation
Exercises that challenge the core to resist the spine from rotating.
Example Exercise: Palloff Press.
- Attach a D-handle to a cable pulley level with your hip.
- Adopt a tall kneeling stance: knees just outside the shoulders.
- Hold handle just under your chest with the outsude hand over the inside hand.
- Squeeze glutes.
- Brace abs.
- Breathe into the abdomen.
- Extend the arms in front of the chest while breathing out powerfully through pursed lips.
- Keep your whole body still and resist the cable rotating your body.
- Pause for a split second.
- Pull the handle back to your chest while breathing in.
How do you program core exercises?
Core exercises are an important part of a balanced training program. But it’s important to respect the fact that compound exercises involve your core muscles too.
If you do too much core work, or worse, dedicate an entire session to it (as so many people do), those muscles will be fatigued and your training will suffer.
PRGRM shows you how to find that balance. It covers all the core movements effectively and schedules them into your workouts.
- Detailed exercise tutorials.
- Tailored exercise progressions.
- Guidance on sets, reps and intensity.