So what’s all the buzz about training the “core”? What is it and why is it so important?
You could be Mr. Beautiful muscle man at the gym, and be strong physically but be a weakling when it comes to core strength. Is it really worth the time and effort to strengthen your core? Absolutely!
To put it simply, the core is your body minus your arms and legs. The primary muscles of the core include the deep abdominal muscles (the TVA, for transverse abdominus) and the muscles of the back, pelvis and shoulder girdle. Your TVA is your own natural built in weight lifting belt – a strong core, and TVA helps support your spine and prevents low back injury. If you have weak core muscles, you’re more susceptible to injuries, low back pain, and poor posture (which in turn can lead to injuries and low back pain). Wouldn’t you rather have a strong core and resist injury?
Having a strong core has many benefits. Not only will you have a body that is more powerful and resistant to injury, you’ll less likely develop hip and back problems that plaque millions.
You’ll be able to perform daily activities better, have increased flexibility, power and stability. In sports such as golf, baseball, and tennis – you’ll find yourself hitting the ball further, harder and faster. A strong core puts the “oomph” and power into your movements. Think of Rocky Balboa, he had to have a strong core to take the punches from Apollo Creed and have power in his punches to knock him out. Strong core muscles also help with balance and stability. Whether young or old, the more stable you are the less likely you are to fall, and twist an ankle or knee.
Ideally, people should be performing core exercises as pre-hab rather than re-hab. Doing so can prevent and greatly reduce chances of injury.
Once you’re injured, you’re likely to miss work, not be able to perform activities or play a sport, and will have to spend a lot of money and time in physical therapy (re-hab). Core training (Pre-hab) exercises don’t require machines and can easily be performed at home and with little space. It’s extremely important to stay strong and injury free. One bad injury could put you out of work, keep you from playing your beloved sport, and have a huge impact on the quality of your life.
There are several training techniques and exercises to help develop your core. The exercises performed in yoga and pilates are excellent, as well as functional training exercises and equipment – balance balls, BOSU, and resistance bands.
One classic core exercise is the plank. Lay flat on the floor, feet together, arms close to sides, elbows bent, hands underneath shoulder. Prop yourself up so your weight is on your elbows and forearms – your arms will be bent at 90 degress with your elbows in line with your shoulders. You want to make sure you keep your back, hips, and legs in a straight line – do not let your hips drop and keep your abs tight (pull navel in towards spine). Try to hold the plank position for a minute (or as long as you can) and then repeat 3-5x. This can be done on a daily basis. With practice, and a stronger core, you’ll find you‘ll be able to hold the plank position longer and longer. Give it a try, your back will thank you for it.