Whether you’re lifting weights, chasing your kiddos, or sitting on the job, having a strong core is essential to reaching your full potential and making the most out of your daily life. The core is made up of approximately 29 muscles and is where all movement originates. Developing a strong can help to prevent injury, improve posture, and enhance overall body conditioning.
Picture the core and you’ll probably visualize a solid pair of washboard abs. Most people would assume that core training is a rigorous routine made up of endless sit-ups and leg lifts. Though this targets specific muscles within the core, it cannot be considered an effective core-training program because it neglects the various functional movements that can be performed by the core.
As the image illustrates, the core is composed of a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond the abdominals. It includes superficial muscles such as the rectus abdominis and external obliques, and deeper muscles such as the psoas, multifidus, pelvic floor, and more. All of the muscles that make up the core work together to allow us to stabilize, transfer force, bend, twist, and stand upright.
Strengthening the Core
More often than not, our core acts as a synergist; assisting other muscles while they perform various movements throughout the day. Because it is involved in nearly every movement that we make, it is essential that core training emphasize the entire muscle contraction spectrum as well as different planes of motion.
1. Stabilizing Isometric Contraction An isometric contraction is when a muscle is exerting force equal to the force being placed on it leading to no visible change. A stabilizing isometric contraction requires a position to be held for a given amount of time while the core stabilizes the exercise.
Stability ball hip bridge
Stability Ball Cobra
2. Force Producing Concentric Contraction
A concentric contraction is when the muscle produces more force than the resistant force, which shortens the muscle. These types of move consist of the typical core training exercises one might think of.
3. Force Reducing Eccentric Contraction
An eccentric contraction occurs when a muscle is placed under tension while lengthening. Focusing on the negative aspect of a contraction reduces force and lengthens the core.
4. Rotational Force Using a combination of concentric and eccentric contractions, rotational force takes the contractions out of the frontal and sagittal planes and in to the transverse plane of motion. Twisting and rotating will produce this type of force.
Medicine ball twists
Stability ball skiers
Plank to kick throughs
5. Neuromuscular Stabilization aka Balance
Neuromuscular stabilization enables the body’s neuromuscular system to synergistically produce force, reduce force, and dynamically stabilize the entire kinetic chain in all three planes of motion. Maintaining balance during functional movement patterns increases stabilization and trains the core.
Single leg touch and reach
Single leg lift and chop
Training the core in such a fashion creates a sturdy foundation from which movement can occur. Use different planes of motion and a variety of contractions to take the core through its various functional movements. This will ensure that you get the most out of your workout. A better core can alleviate back pain, improve posture, improve balance, lead to better athletic performance, and create safer everyday movements. It will also look better! If your core training program consists mainly of crunches and leg lifts, it's time to upgrade. Use these five types of movements to build a better core!