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Core Training: Some Things You Should Know

Posted Aug 25 2008 3:31pm

Core training is a huge buzzword in the fitness industry these days. It's one thing to talk about it but yet another to really understand what's going on with the core. Profit making companies tend to promote "building your six pack abs" when discussing the core. You need to know more and do more for your body's core!

Your body's core consists of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, thoracic spine and cervical spine. THE CORE is your body's center of gravity. Some people have sufficient EXTREMITY STRENGTH (limbs), but few display sufficient CORE STRENGTH. A strong and stable core will maximize your EXTREMITY STRENGTH and POWER. A core strengthening program involves using many muscles in a coordinated movement. Rather than isolating specific joints as in most weight lifting exercises, core stability exercises focus on working the deep muscles of the entire torso at once. The core muscles are also very important in preventing low back pain. Stability ball exercises, bridges, planks, low back extensions, medicine ball exercises, etc. are great for strengthening core muscles.

The body's core is so much more than your "six pack" abs! A strong core will maximize your strength and speed. Since the core is your body's center of gravity and all movement begins with the core, it is essential to strengthen and stabilize it. A strong core will allow you to handle heavier loads as your training progresses. You will also lessen your chances of injury. About 34 muscles support your core which includes the pelvic floor. Some of the major core muscles include:

transversus abdominis - the deepest of the abdominal muscles, it lies under the obliques and wraps around your spine for protection and stability. Think of the transversus abdominis as "your internal weight belt." It is recruited when you draw in your navel toward your spine during an exercise.

external obliques - these muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen and wrap around your waist.

internal obliques - these muscles lie under the external obliques and run in the opposite direction.

rectus abdominis - this is the "six pack" part of the abs that runs down the front of the abdomen.

erector spinae - this collection of muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.

These core muscles lie deep within the torso. They generally attach to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the scapula. When these muscles contract, we stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulders and create a solid base of support. We are then able to generate powerful movements of the extremities. Training the muscles of the core also corrects postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness, that is, fitness that is essential to both daily living and athletic activities. A core conditioning program will decrease the likelihood of back and neck pain, incontinence, ruptured disks, muscle and ligamentous strains, all while improving posture.

Core training may not be glamourous but your body will thank you for years to come when you stabilize and strengthen your core!

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