By Gerard Bochese
The big buzz in fitness is core training. The problem is, most people don’t know what the core truly is. Technically it is the pelvis, abdominal wall, spine, hip complex, and rib cage and all of the 29 muscles that attach to this complex. In other words, the core is your body minus your arms, legs and head – your trunk. The core’s purpose is to work as an integrated functional unit that accelerates, decelerates, and dynamically stabilizes the body during movement.
What is interesting about exercise is that all movement must pass through the core, so technically all exercises involve some kind of core involvement. This is why training the core correctly and knowing which muscles need to be trained as core muscles is so important.
From the above definition the core is much more than the “6 pack” and only doing crunches is a far cry from core training.
There are two systems to the core:
1) Stabilization system
2) Movement system
These two systems must work together. We must work from the inside (stabilization system) out (movement system) because the stabilization system, based on its location within the body, provides direct stabilization to our spine, pelvis, and hips and the movement system does not. Therefore, training the muscles of the movement system prior to the muscles of the stabilization system (which most people do by performing crunches, bicycles, etc.) does not make structural, biomechanical or logical sense. It’s like building a house—you must have a strong foundation (core) before you can put up the frame or the house will collapse.
The four (4) key core muscles in need of stability training are:
• Deep abdominals – transverse abdominus, internal obliques – these muscles act as an internal weight belt and connect the upper and lower body.
• Hip abductors and rotators – these muscles are the foundation for leg training
• Spine stabilizers – these muscles are directly opposite the deep abdominals and also connect the upper and lower body
• Scapula stabilizers – muscles between our shoulder blades that act as the foundation for arm training.
By training these muscles to be structurally strong and have a strong endurance capacity, one is creating a stable base or platform to perform everyday tasks as well as recreational and fitness activities. When we are pushing and pulling, carrying and lifting things in the gym or the real world with our arms and legs, we need our core to be the base of support that these extremities can work off of. If the core is weak there will be compensations, postural deviations and potential injury while performing these tasks.