May 12 2017
Core training came into fashion when I first started as a coach 10 yeas ago, functional training was the buzz word and exercises where you balanced on one leg and swung or chopped a rubber covered weight encompassed most of the session. I must admit that I was pulled in…
Core training came into fashion when I first started as a coach 10 yeas ago, functional training was the buzz word and exercises where you balanced on one leg and swung or chopped a rubber covered weight encompassed most of the session. I must admit that I was pulled in by the craze – I blame my inexperience back then! Despite this craze being born almost a decade ago, I’m still amazed how many institutions recommend and clients ask for direct core training… There’s no such thing!
So what is the core? When most of your think of the core, it’s the muscles that run down the middle of your stomach, from your ribs to your navel (the six-pack). However, this is less than 10% of your core muscles – and possibly the most useless! This leads to tonnes of groaning gym members crunching and planking for excessive reps or time in the hope of building a six-pack or helping to stabilise their back. This kind of stuff actually makes your back worse, and unless you’re already beach lean through your diet, your abs will never see the light of day – simply because you cannot spot reduce your fat!Rather than me listing the muscles, think of the core as a barrel that circles your midsection.
It allows you to transmit force from between your upper and lower body. When you are kicking a ball, your torso twists and your arms flail so that you don’t fall & you control the power. Hence the core works as a unit, it does not function in by moving isolated muscles – a core exercise that works in isolation (like a crunch), will disrupt this fine balance, which may well be the cause of an injury rather than a prevention.
The other day a client came back from BUPA assessment where his core was tested. The doctor asks him to hold two weights out in front of him and proceeded to run a machine down his spine. The machine’s analysis was that he had a weak core!
Now this is a guy who can deadlift 140KG from the floor from a dead stop. Like any other muscle, the core responds to the load it is subjected to, so as you build yourself to a +140KG deadlift your core develops along the way – or you’d literaly break in two!
For a strong core you need to load the spine. Exercise where you take the bar on your back have the most positive impact, followed buy those where you simply hold or pick up the weight – free weight exercises.
I would say there is one caveat to indirect core training, and that’s when it comes to posture. If you’re lifestyle or sport has overemphasised a certain core muscle, direct training along with free weights will be needed. The guy who spends 9 hours at his desk, and also cycles into work will have back problems caused by a imbalanced core.
These guys need to build up the areas of weakness that have been overpowered by overdeveloped hip-flexors and anterior core muscles such as the rec abs (six-pack). Once the imbalance is fixed, the goal is to become as strong as possible purely through full body lifting. Floor based / endurance weight exercises are for the injured or truly deconditioned.