Core training is one of those fun, fancy fitness words that people like to throw around.
You tell people that you work on core strength and they couldn’t be happier. I am fairly certain that most people don’t actually know what core stability is but they think they need it.
The best part about that is they probably do. It is rare that someone has enough core stability that they can use for their other gym movements.
Many people can hold a plank for 2 minutes. Not a lot of people can brace their core and squat to a good depth.
Lets get to a few definitions.
Core stability- the ability for the body to resist rotation, extension, lateral flexion, and flexion.
Anti Rotation- ability to resist rotation
Anti Extension- ability to resist extension (arching) in the spine
Anti Lateral Flexion- ability to resist side bending
Anti Flexion- ability to resist rounding the back
Trunk flexion- curling your spine in half (think sit up, crunch)
6 pack- visible abs that are a function of diet more than ab training
The 6 Pack
Most people think that doing a bunch of planks or sit ups is going to magically counteract a dozen beers or donuts.
Defined abs are a function of diet. Most people that want a 6 pack are not eating the way they are supposed to. If they were then there would be no problem. Again, defined abs are a function of diet. Address nutrition to unveil the abs.
Sit ups and crunches
I have two problems with sit ups and crunches.
First off they are bad for the spine. They put a ton compression on the vertebral disks and most people are not walking around with perfectly healthy spines.
80% of people have some kind of back pain and poor exercise choices are only going to make that worse.
The second problem with sit ups and crunches is that they do not promote stability.
The goal in these exercises is to actively flex the torso. When we are lifting, running, or doing other activities we want the spine to be as stable as possible.
All lifts will be negatively affected by a lack of core stability. You cannot have a big squat or deadlift if you cannot actively brace to support the weight on the bar. Sit ups and crunches require no such stability, holding back performance in the gym and competition.
The issue with core training vs situps/crunches is the burn. You will feel the burn by doing the latter. Stability exercises are felt a whole lot less but they are what we need to develop a strong foundation for performance.
Good Core Training
The best core training involves resisting movement. The 4 “anti” categories that I defined earlier are essential. If someone can control a movement then they can definitely produce it.
Improving core stability is also therapeutic for back pain. Usually, back pain is caused by bad posture or alignment. This bad posture/alignment is often caused by a lack of strength in the abdominals and glutes. This can sometimes be combined with overuse in the spinal erectors.
Proper core training (with some glute exercises) can alleviate back issues. They are not going to repair a herniated disk that requires surgery but the chronic, non specific ailments can be helped.
Here are some of my favorite core stability exercises
Anti Lateral Flexion