How to Train your Core
Core training is a bit like nutrition. It is quite simple in theory but people over complicate it and don't really understand or know what to do for the best. Firstly let me point out I don't give my clients core exercises to develop a defined abdomen. I give them core exercises so they can improve their body awareness, increase co-ordination, lift weights safely, function safely in day to day activities and stay clear of injury. A good strength training programme will work your core muscles effectively but I still believe that we should all do a little bit extra.
What is your Core?
First lets look at what muscles or areas are considered to be your ‘core’ muscles. Generally speaking we are talking the whole mid section of the body. The Trunk. This includes a lot of muscles. Your Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus, Internal and External Obliques, Multifidus, Erector Spinae Muscles, Pelvic Floor and Diaphragm are to name but a few. In truth any muscle that connects into the pelvis or spine and helps to stabilise the body can be considered a core muscle.
What does the Core do?
The core muscles have many functions but to keep it simple here are 3 key reasons why we would train these muscles.
They protect your spine and help stabilise the body. An example might be picking up a heavy object from the floor – you need the strength of your legs and arms to do the job, but a strong core will allow for optimal movement resisting flexion, extension and rotation at the spine as you do the lift. Another example might be carrying your toddler. You’re loading your body on one side with 10-15kg, the core muscles on the other side are helping to keep you stable and upright so you can perform the task safely and effectively.
They help transfer forces across the body from one extremity to another; an example might be throwing a ball as far as you can or picking up and throwing a bag of rubbish into the skip. If you throw purely from the shoulder just using your arms you will only achieve a certain degree of force. If you bring the legs and hips into the movement you will create much more force. The effectiveness of this force will be down to how well you can transfer the forces from the legs to the arms. Core strength and co-ordination of movement is key.
They help initiate movement. An example might be bending to tie your shoelace, getting out of your bed or passing an object from left to right. How often do we hear of people putting their backs out doing the simplest of tasks like this?
So as you can see the object of training the core isn’t to get a six-pack. It’s to help protect your body and help you to function more effectively.
How should we train the Core?
If you have an understanding of where your core muscles are and what their functions are then you can start to understand how best to train it. I have split up how we should train the core into 6 sections. Anti-Rotation, Anti-Extension, Anti-Lateral Flexion, Hip Flexion with neutral spine, Rotation and Flexion/Extension.
Pallof Presses, Cable Side Planks, Cable Walk the Line, Renegade Rows, PUP Reach-outs, Shoulder Taps and Cable Anti Rotations are all key anti rotation exercises.
Deadbugs, Roll-Outs, Plank variations and Dish Holds are key anti-extension exercises.
Side Planks and Single Arm Farmers Walks are key anti lateral flexion exercises.
Hip Flexion with Neutral Spine
Hanging Leg Raises, Knee Raises, Stability Ball or TRX Pike movements are all key hip flexion exercises that will challenge the core.
Cable Rotations, Med Ball Rotational Throws and Grappler Rotations are all key rotational movements.
Sit Ups, Cycle Sits, Curl ups and Back Extensions are key flexion/extension exercises.
If you click on the link above you will get access to a simple 5 movement routine that covers most of these qualities. I have split each exercise into 3 levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) to hopefully give people of all levels a challenge and an opportunity to take something out of this post, I have also focused on BW exercises only so the routine can be done at home as well.
However to learn more about the movements mentioned above please download our Core Exercise Training Manual for £9.99. This manual includes 25 key core exercises with photographs and descriptions for each exercise that will stand you in good stead with your core training. If you would like to learn these exercises with a qualified trainer check out what PT services we have to offer .