The core is a pretty general term that is thrown around a lot these days. There is definitely more to the core than just trying to get beach body abs. The musculature of the core includes: the abdominals, obliques, erectors, glutes, hip flexors, lats, adductors, and more. One of the things that always frustrate me as a personal trainer, is when clients beg for more crunches because they want to lose belly fat. It’s not your fault, we are constantly bombarded with a new infomercial on the latest ab gadget. The truth is, you cannot spot reduce the fat around your midsection. That comes from eating healthy and exercising properly.
There’s a better way to train the core. For improved performance and overall function, train the core to be more stable. Think of your core like a highway. All forces are generated there first, and travels the highway to our limbs. When we see a runner struggling, the posture is usually the same, hunched over from the midsection, just trying to hold on. We want our core to be stable to outside forces, and also forces that we produce. Any breaks in the highway, will lead to energy leaks and lack of performance. A strong stable core will lead to better force production, and longer strides. Another big misconception is that longer strides don’t come from better flexibility. If that’s the case, we would be reaching with every stride, and planted our feet ahead of hips. This will cause us to brake with ever stride, causing injuries and slower times. With a stable core and having the foot strike under the hips will lead to longer more effective stride.
Everybody has done this exercise a million times. It’s the plank. Most people, get into position and hold on for as long as they can. This isn’t a good strategy. Eventually we get so tired, that our form goes down the tubes, but we still try to hang on for a few more minutes. Avoid this strategy. When we train our body in a dysfunctional state, we will make that dysfunction stronger. Here’s the proper way to perform this exercise:
1. Support your bodyweight between your feet and your forearms
2. Allow the head to stay neutral
3. Squeeze the shoulder blades together.
4. Squeeze your glutes, quads, and suck your bellybutton to your spine.
5. Lastly, even though you won’t physically move, drive your elbows towards your toes, and your toes to your elbows. This will activate your core like you’ve never felt before.
6. Keep this form for the time you want to perform. Once you’re able to get a minute fairly easy, I like to make the exercise a little harder as opposed to adding more time. You can raise a foot or arm slightly off the ground. Place your arms on a stability ball. Variations are endless.
Give this a try and let me know what you think.
Wayne Earney MS, CSCS, PES, CES