First, let’s be clear–a strong core does not mean having 6-pack abs! Nor does a 6-pack indicate an efficient core. No amount of crunches will get you a strong core, either. A strong core is so much more than aesthetics. So now that we have those myths out of the way, what does having a strong core mean?
According the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the objective of core training is to uniformly strengthen the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back. If there is one thing I’ve learned through my own experience and my personal training course, it’s that a strong core is absolutely invaluable.
Core training should be incorporated into your training program no matter what your goals are. A strong core will help you with virtually anything from sports performance to mobility to low-back problems. A fundamental problem that leads to inefficient movement and predictable patterns of injury is a weak core. A properly designed core training program helps individuals gain neuromuscular control, stability, muscular endurance, strength, and power of the core.
What is the core? Let me tell you, it’s a lot more than simply your abdominals and obliques! The core is the structures that make up the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC), which are the lumbar spine, the pelvic girdle, abdomen, and the hip joint. A strong and efficient core is necessary for maintaining proper muscle balance throughout the entire human movement system because the core is the body’s center of gravity. It’s where all movement originates. Everything stems from your core—can you see the important of it now?!
To learn more on the core, read the blog post The Core: Where All Movement Originates.
So can you guess what the best core exercise is? PLANKS! Planks, otherwise known as iso-abs, is a phenomenal exercise that you should incorporate into your workout regime. A plank is a simple, yet highly effective bodyweight exercise that requires no movement, but rather an isometric hold. Exercises that focus on stabilizing muscles are the ones that require little to no movement through the core. You need to be sure that these muscles are properly trained and strengthened before moving on to more complex core exercises.
EXERCISE INSTRUCTION: start on the floor. A plank is similar to the starting position of a push-up, except you should be on your elbows instead of your palms, so be on your elbows and toes in prone position. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe. Don’t allow your hips to sink or have your butt in the air. Your feet should be no wider than shoulder-width apart. Don’t arch or hyper extend your back. Make sure your shoulders are in line with your elbows and your hands are pointed straight ahead.
Planks not only work your abdominals, but they will strengthen your back and shoulders as well. Never underestimate the power of a bodyweight exercise!
Want a stronger core? Consider purchasing my core guide: 12 Weeks to an Efficient Core. Strengthen your core in just 3 12-minutes a week! No equipment required.