Core Fitness

Training success and progress depends on a strong supportive core

Working the core is not just just about doing crunches, sit ups, and plank. To build a strong core it is important to understand that the core stretches all the way up from the hips to the chest. It is easy to think the core is strong if you have a six pack and strong stomach muscles, but in reality when trainers and physiotherapists talk about the core they mean the many muscles which stabilise the spine and pelvic area. This stability involves the use of muscles that transverse the entire torso. Developing a strong set of core muscles to hold and stabilise the spine and torso assists with not only daily activities such as walking and holding posture, but also to perform exercises with better form, use more strength and ultimately progress further with your fitness training. 

The core is the centre from which all strength is supported. Developing a strong core will help distribute the stress of lifting weights and pushing muscles to work, and will help protect the back during fitness training and programmes. 

A strong core to reduce back pain

When the core is weak, it can be difficult to be to maintain correct posture, which can be linked to lower back pain. In some cases arching of the back and curve in the lumbar area occurs. 

Trying to keep your back straight during exercise (in general) is essential to reduce strain on the spine - a strong developed core will help do this and in turn channel energy and effort into the exercise. 

A strong core to help your performance 

A strong core gives a solid centre from which to feel stable and strong, allowing the channelling of energy out from the centre into arms, legs and the muscles you are training. Poor core strength and stability mean a greater likelihood of bad posture, resulting in the transfer of effort and energy to weaker parts of the body, possibly resulting in a strain. 

A strong core gives greater range of motion and stability. For example a strong lower back and pelvis is absolutely essential when doing any lifting exercise, such as squats and dead lifts. 

The more stable the core, the more power generated with arms and legs. Core strength is the most important factor when it comes to overall strength and stability, and the extra range of controlled motion helps avoid injury. 

A strong core for functional fitness

Developing a strong core helps develop what is known as 'functional fitness.' This means that a strong core will help you with everyday activities like lifting, walking, twisting etc. 

A strong core to help posture

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to all exercise is correct posture and form. A strong, well-developed core will help correct and maintain posture, which is essential in executing exercises correctly and in turn gaining the most from them. Poor core strength and control can easily lead to injuries and a lack of progress, whereas a strong core will help reduce the strain on your spine. A good strong posture also looks and feels good, and will help with standing taller and breathing more easily. The back muscles of the core are responsible for movement such as that of the spine and rotation of the trunk. Having a weak core can lead to bad positioning of the pelvis with possible forward tilting/rotation and commonly a raise in one side of the pelvis, resulting in a lack of stability and strength in the core and potentially a twisted, uneven posture, which all in turn adds up to the possibility of injury.

A strong core front, back and side

The core is not restricted to the front torso but also includes the back and side muscles. The core includes deeper muscles that are not visible. The core should be seen as a whole unit, a solid trunk. All the muscles work together to support the spine, so should all be trained. A thousand sit ups a day will help your abs, but overall the core as a whole could still be weak. The core muscles work together as a system, and the best idea is to train them as a group and not to isolate one part in favour of another e.g doing only sit ups, as this would not help  develop the overall core strength. 

There are many ways to train the core, from big compound exercises such as squats, to oblique twists and 'supermans'.

A strong core for all

A strong core is essential to all athletes and anyone getting fit or wanting to progress their training. Having that solid, strong midsection is a great base for many different pursuits. E.g for bodybuilders and weight training: to channel the force where its needed. For endurance athletes: to help develop stamina and a strong stride for runners, or a more powerful front crawl for swimmers.

It makes sense that a weak core will immediately compromise your training, from being able to hold your posture to even lifting the weights to be able to perform a weight lifting exercise, for example; how can you lift the dumbells above your head to begin working your shoulders with good form when you have a weak core?

In essence, a weak core will always undermine your overall strength and power. Anyone who has experienced an aching back or a tired mid-section will have also experienced a lack of strength and performance in the gym or on the track. No matter what your chosen fitness goals, Fitness Source always recommends building in core strength exercises to your regular routine. 

Click on the links below for more information:
What are: Core Exercises
What are: Core Muscles