There’s a fairly common misconception that “core strength” refers to your abdominal muscles. But there is much more to the core than just your abs! We want to break down the question and answer the question ‘what is core strength?’
First things first, the core is made up of a few different groups of muscles: the upper abdominal muscles, the obliques or side muscles, and the lats. The core also includes the erector spinae which is the fancy term for our back muscles. Lastly, the core includes the glutes.
Building a solid and flexible core will allow you to have a highly functional muscle-base. This allows you to develop more muscle mass and improve your athletic performance. Think of the core as the foundation that you will build the rest of your body on.
Why is Core Strength Important?
You wouldn’t build your house on a cracked foundation, would you? No, you’d build a house on a solid foundation that will prevent it from breaking down or falling apart later. Your core acts as the foundation for your body. A stronger core means that you’re able to get the most out of your athletic ability and build more muscle mass.
The core muscles work to stabilize your body throughout your daily activities and during your training sessions. Training your core allows you to develop and strengthen the muscles which stabilize your body. A stable body means that you’re able to lift more weights, with proper form – which accelerates your results.
On the other hand, failure to develop a solid core could lead to severe lower back pain, poor form during workouts, and a higher risk for injury during training sessions. A poorly developed core also leads to poor posture and doesn’t let you achieve the same results as a strong core during training sessions.
Core Training is on the Rise
Due to the current lifestyles in America, our core strength and posture have suffered. Many of us sit at a desk for 8 to 10 hours a day for four or five days per week. This has a very negative affect on our postures and on our core strength. Fitness has always been a way to develop the core, but today we recognize that building core strength is as important as anything else when it comes to fitness.
In the early stages of fitness, core training was often overlooked and definitely wasn’t recognized as being as important as we realize it is today. Today, many fitness clubs offer classes specifically on developing the core. Core training is becoming more and more popular as we realize that it’s a key part of achieving any fitness goal. Building muscle, cutting weight and increasing endurance all depend on having a strong core.
Why You Need to Train Your Core
Core training is an equal opportunity work out. Core training is important for everyone from non-gym-goers to elite athletes. This is because the core muscles are important for assisting with virtually every task we perform throughout each day. This is magnified when it comes to an elite athlete’s performance. Reaching, twisting, bending, and lifting are movements that every single one of us does each and every day. But athletes do each of these daily activities on a larger scale with weight attached to each movement.
Training your core will allow you avoid injury for the short and long-term. In the short-term, having a strong core greatly reduces the risk of injury. As we age, our muscle mass and bodies naturally deteriorate. Having a stronger muscle mass to begin will slows the natural progression of losing muscle as we age.
How to Work Out Your Core
By now, I think we all agree that we must work out our cores. Some of us may be doing it without even knowing it or intentionally trying to do it. The chances are that if you’re regularly going to the gym, then you’re working out your core. Most compound exercises will involve the core in some way, shape or form.
Exercises ranging from bodyweight exercises to machines to free weights all help to develop a stronger core. But, while activities such as sit-ups also work the core, the key to developing a strong core is to do exercises which require you to use two or more of the core muscle groups.
Compound exercises which target two or more muscle groups not only develop muscle strength but they also assist with the tasks that are cores are responsible for: reaching, twisting, bending, and lifting. Squats, barbell rows, and deadlifts are just three of the many exercises which provide us with a tremendous core workout.
Your Core Workout Options are Endless
As I mentioned, you are probably already workout out your core fairly frequently if you are a regular at the gym. But, if you’re just starting out or looking for options to build a stronger core and keep your workouts from becoming bland, here are a few of our favorite options.
For beginners, the best way to activate and develop your core is with a series of bodyweight exercises. Keep in mind that by using your bodyweight, you’re at a much lower risk for injury. This is why body weight exercises are such a great option for those new to working out their cores. But keep in mind, that the body adjusts to bodyweight exercises fairly quickly so you must progress from bodyweight exercises to more advanced techniques.
The most common bodyweight exercises when it comes to developing a core are planks. There are various types of planks which each focus on your core slightly differently. For example, your standard plank – the one where you hold your body straight with your forearms and your toes on the floor – can be modified by putting your toes on a bench to create a decline in the bench. Side planks are another option for targeting the obliques and developing an abdominal section that is not only strong but also defined.
The next logical progression is to use free-weights and progress to compound exercises to develop the core muscles. For those of us who may work out at home or at the gym, a dumbbell or kettlebell can be the only tool you need to develop a strong core. The list of core exercises you can do with a single dumbbell or kettlebell is virtually endless. From side bends to squats, to kettlebell swings, your core will be on overload.