Core training provides the body with a strong working foundation. The core muscles are necessary whether you are seated, standing or moving. All individuals should perform exercises that focus on training the core to protect and strengthen the entire back musculature.
- A strong core helps:
- Prevent the incidence of back injury and pain
- Ensure efficient and functional movement
- Correct poor posture
- Improve balance
- Increase athletic capability
While the goal for many is to gain a "six pack" look in their abdominals, this does not ensure core stability. Core training involves more than just great looking abs. It involves the integration and coordination of movement for strength and stability. A weak core hinders functional movement, increasing the risk for injury. Most would agree that core training involves all the muscles of the abdominals, pelvis, spine and the muscles around the shoulder and scapulae.
Learning to activate the stabilizing muscles of the core before movement of the arms or legs (the prime movers) will decrease the risk for injury. Establishing neutral position (neutral spine) should first be established to ensure that the natural curves of the spine are maintained. This will keep the shoulders, hips, knees and ankle joints in line supporting proper body alignment.
Here are a few tips to stabilize the core:
- Activate your core by drawing your abdominals inward (navel to your spine) A good visualization cue is to think of zipping up a tight pair of jeans.
- Tighten the gluteal muscles to assist with core stabilization.
- Practice continuous breathing. Do not hold your breath.
- Focus on quality, not quantity. Perform each exercise with a controlled movement speed. Take your time through each repetition.
- Stay focused and concentrate on the muscle group being used.
- Be aware and concentrate on the movements, reinforcing postural cues like drawing abdominal muscles inward.
The major muscles of the core involve the following:
- Rectus Abdominis - a long muscle that extends along the front of the abdomen. This is the "six-pack" part of the abs that becomes visible with reduced body fat.
- External Obliques - these muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen, around the waist.
- Internal Obliques - these muscles lie under (deep muscle) the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
- Transverse Abdominis - the deepest of the abdominal muscles. They lie under the obliques, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability.
- Multifidus - a series of deep small muscles which travel up the length of the spine.
- Erector Spinae - a total of three muscles along the neck to the lower back.
- Muscles of the scapular area and around the shoulders.
- Muscles of the hip and outer and inner thigh surrounding the pelvis.
A wide variety of effective core exercises can be performed seated, standing and lying down both supine and prone. These can be safely taught by a Fitness Professional.
I recommend you have a Fitness Professional teach proper lifting, sitting and standing techniques to correct any problems that may occur from poor posture. Learn proper stabilization techniques of the lower body to create a solid foundation to perform all exercises properly and effectively.