Training your core is so much more than sit-ups and crunches. The approach you take to training your core is like laying the foundation for a house to built upon. Do it poorly and the house won’t last. BUT if you prioritize the foundation and put time, energy and effort into it the house will last. Keep reading and learn more about why your core is the foundation and how you should be training.
CHASING THE SIX PACK
Many people are on the search for their “perfect summer body”. This often starts with the illusive six-pack that many are chasing. An accessory for their favorite summer outfit. But is the 5-minute ab workout the right fit?
I think it is important to state that I have been in that exact scenario in years past. Googling workouts to find a quick fix on how to get there in 2 weeks. Contrary to popular belief, this cannot be attained. Even the 50 crunches a day and the 5- minute ab workout won’t do it in 2 weeks. I want to offer you a new perspective on core. I want to show you what building a strong core means and does for you.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CORE
Yes, doing ab exercises can build strength in your abdominal muscles just as doing bicep curls strengthens your biceps. However, looking at this as the key to your swimsuit body is only a snapshot of the picture. The hard truth is that our core is essential to our general existence. We wouldn’t be able to stand up and walk around without core muscles.
Your core is more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes not only your “six pack” (rectus abdominus), but all of the muscles that are in the trunk of your body like your back, hips, and glutes just to name a few. Training the core as a whole can bring many benefits such as:
- Reduced back pain due to proper activation of abdominal muscles
- Increase in stability and balance through strong core
- Teaching the body to engage the core in everyday activities (yard work, lifting groceries, etc.)
If your swimsuit body needs a six pack to go along with it, you will need to hit the kitchen. The gym is not likely the only “missing link”. But remember you do have one, because our core is our foundation. The stronger it is the healthier you are. Regardless of whether you can see it or not.
WHERE TO START
Here are some of the favorite and effective core exercises we love at Pure Fitness. Bonus is that you can do them at home. Side note, there are a significant number of variations for each of the exercises below. These are a good starting point to train your core in a variety of planes of movement an under different loads.
Dead Bugs For Training Your Core
This is definitely my go-to exercise for helping people learn to engage their core. This position allows us to teach people how to engage their core and stabilize their low back/pelvis, preventing extension and flexion of the spine, while limbs are moving.
Focus on keeping your back motionless and driven into the ground as you move arms and legs. Any arching of the back away from the ground should be considered as a failed rep. Try to reset your core, brace into the ground and begin moving again. Remember that you are in control of the range of motion. You can always shorten or modify range of motion to ensure quality of reps. Then over time you can increase the range of motion as you become stronger.
For an easier modification bend your knees and for a harder modification hold a light weight in each of your hands.
We consider this a gold standard of core exercise!
Elbow Plank For Training Your Core
A simple, but effective isometric exercise that not only engages your abdominal muscles, but your shoulders as well. I personally love planks to work on stability. It is easy to feel/see when you are working through your back as your hips sink and abdominals extend.
Focus on keeping your hips tucked up so that your low back does not arch. With tucked hips, you will notice that your low abdominals really turn on and help stabilize your body.
I encourage you to think of your core as including your glutes and shoulders on this exercise. Pay attention to both and everything in the middle to get the most out of your elbow plank.
Side Plank + Crunch For Training Your Core
I always love using this combination exercise that can work in two actions, isometric and concentric. A great exercise for working your obliques and uses your bottom glute to support as well! Remember our core is hips to shoulders, training them synergistically is important!
If you struggle with holding a side plank we suggest you focus on properly holding a side plank before adding the crunch. You can also modify this exercise so the bottom knee is bent and resting on the ground. This will make the side plank portion easier and hopefully allow you to incorporate the crunch successful. BUT don’t give up on side planks. You’ll still need to practice them to build up your strength.
V-Sit Hold For Training Your Core
A different way to work isometrically by really isolating your abdominal muscles. This exercise will show you if you are working through your core or your back. Many people do v-sits with constant back pain. If you are one of those people. Stop.
The best way to avoid back pain is to focus on a crunch in the abdominals. Most of the time we think of a v-sit as having a flat back and very up right posture.
For a modification you can try placing your hands on the ground next to or just behind your hips. This will allow you to de-load the exercise by supporting some of your bodyweight.
V-Sit To Opposite Toe Touch For Training Your Core
This active variation of a crunch can really create a great burn for your abdominal muscles. For beginners, keeping your back flat to the ground can help stimulate the correct use of core engagement. We find the key is to tighten your core before lifting your arm or leg.
Modifications for this exercise can be to leave your back flat on the floor through the entire movement. Focusing on bracing into the ground before you move either your arm or your leg.
Additionally, you can bend your knee moving in a tuck and extend movement pattern as opposed to the straight leg swing.
MY THOUGHTS ON CORE
Just like in life there are no easy short cuts. If it sounds too good to be true (5-minute six pack) it probably is! Spot reduction is not something that has been proven by science to work. And I have yet to see it work in the gym.
Keep in mind that every single person is different. We all have unique metabolisms and body types. Just as I stated in my post about nutrition, it is about creating healthy habits that you can sustain for life. I suggest focusing on building a strong core for a better life, not chasing a six pack that somebody else has. I believe in building a strong body, not an Instagram-able body!
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