When most people hear the words, “core training,” they usually think of abs. Many gyms have “core” classes to attract clients wanting to improve their six-pack. Unfortunately, these “core” classes are generally nothing more than an abs class. If you attend a “core” class and you do more than two exercises that involve crunching and sit-ups, it is not a “core” class, it is just a glorified “abs” class.
The truth is the “core” includes the lower back, shoulders, hips, glutes and abdominals. The purpose of “core” training is to work all the muscles that stabilize the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle. Core training is functional; your core is active when you do basically any movement. If you are standing right now, your core is engaged, and is allowing you to stand upright. If you only train the abs you are neglecting all the other muscles. Muscles that when trained, provide a strong base of support which allows you to control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight, and move in any direction. A strong core will also protect the lower back, help reduce back pain, and improve postural imbalances.
Another benefit of core training is it will help you get lean, hard abs. You can do crunches all day and not see results if your abs are hidden under a layer of fat. Core exercises are more challenging for the entire body. They burn more calories so it helps you lose fat faster. Core training uses a lot of static holds, which strengthens the core, and makes the abs leaner and tighter. Crunches on the other hand can actually cause you to look fatter if you do too many. (I will explain how/why in a later article). My favorite core exercises are plank and pushup variations. I use them in almost all of my workouts. I use these exercises because they work the entire core from the shoulder to the glutes, burn more calories, and help to develop overall strength in my clients.
Plank: Place your forarms on the ground with your elbow directly under you shoulders, feet together. Lift your body to the plank position, back straight, abs tight, looking at your fingertips. Hold this position for 20-60 seconds or as long as you can without letting your back arch or your hips raise or lower. Rest for the same amount of time you help the plank and repeat for 3 sets.
Mt. Climbers: Start in a pushup position with your elbows slightly bent. Bring your right knee in to your chest and tap the floor with your toe. Now move the right leg back to the starting position and bring in your left knee. Repeat the movement to 20-30 seconds moving your knees in and out as fast as you can, and keeping your upper body as still as possible. You should look like you are marching in place. Rest for 10-30 seconds and repeat for 3 sets.