The core is one of the most important muscle groups in our body. It stabilises us and maintains our posture, gives us strength and power and of course it can lead to a toned physique (although that’s not just what we should be aiming for). Wave Personal Trainer Harry Knight tells us more.
Think of the core like a car engine; you have to look after and maintain it to keep your body running smoothly. A weak core can lead to poor mechanics which ultimately will lead to injury. In the same way that we set goals for weight training, cardio and eating healthily, it’s important to establish the habit of properly training the core, as that sets the basis for achieving all other goals.
Most people think core training is endless crunches, sit ups and planks. This is not true. Made up of several muscles, movements need to be incorporated which are going to ignite each area of the core to maximise the benefits of your workout.
The areas to focus on are: abdominals, obliques, lower back and glutes.
For the upper abdominals try planks, pallof presses and sit ups
For the lower abdominals try lying leg raises, swimmer/flutter kicks and hollow holds
For the obliques (sides) try Russian twists, side planks and weighted side bends
For the lower back try back raises, glute bridge and yoga poses (such as cat cow and bird dog.)
Finally, the all-important glutes. Glute exercises to try are bridges or hip thrusts, kick-backs, clamshells, kettle bell swings and walking lunges.
Training our glute muscles creates a strong and solid base for training all other muscles. Strong glutes also relieve tightness in the lower back and reduce pain in that area. By targeting these specific muscles rather than just ‘the core’ you are getting a rounded, balanced, stronger and more functional engine.
Are you training your whole core?
Utilising well rounded core exercises can have a number of health & workout benefits. Not only does it contribute to reducing lower back pain, but it can create more efficient performance when weightlifting including squats, deadlifts, overhead press and bent over rows.
Trainers constantly tell clients to tighten, lock and brace the core when lifting. A functioning, strong core should do this without putting any strain on the lower back, consequently maximising lifts and improving form. Poor form in weightlifting can be an indication of poor core training. The body is very clever and will try to compensate for weaker areas by using stronger muscles that shouldn’t be used for specific movements. This means that you’ll be putting pressure on areas of the body that aren’t designed to be used in that way, increasing your risk of injury.
It is important to incorporate full core training into plans just as much as specific weight training, cardiovascular training and stretching. It’s the engine of our body, it’s up to us to keep it in good working order.
Next time you go to an exercise class or workout at the gym ask yourself; is my core really strong? Am I training it as effectively as other areas? Can I feel it working in a training session?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, consider changing up your routine. If you'd like some inspiration or tips on training your core or any other aspect of fitness, come and have a chat with the Fitness Instructors or Personal Trainers at the gym. We’ll be happy to take you through the moves above, give you some advice and can arrange a personalised FitConnect or Personal Training session to help you maximise your workouts!