MAKE YOUR CORE YOUR SECRET WEAPON

The benefits of core training
PHOTO: GUILLE FAINGOLD/STOCKSY

A common misconception is that the terms ‘core’ and ‘abs’ are interchangeable. While they can and do work in conjunction with one another, often when you hear about core moves, it’s actually a reference to exercises that claim to reveal the abs or a six pack.

Six packs are still viewed by many to be the pinnacle of fitness, with the latest ‘beach body’ workouts, models, Hollywood celebs, clothing lines, athletes (the list continues…) often making use of a lean, ripped torso as a juggernaut marketing tool.

However, having a strong core goes far beyond aesthetics or Instagrammable abs. Core strength boasts a multitude of benefits that are far more vital than just having ripped abs – it sets a solid foundation for strength and function in the rest of the body.

Having a strong midsection doesn’t only require core strength, though. It also calls upon core stability, which is the recruitment of the deep internal muscles that support and align the spine, pelvis and ribs in order to resist force.

Why you should work your core

The core works as a stabiliser for the entire body, so it’s essential for optimal performance as well as injury prevention. Core training provides overall structural strength to assist with movement, improve posture, strengthen and support the lower back and boost efficiency in exercises such as running and walking.

1 Sports performance

Want to be more athletic? Work your core. The core is involved in every action – from throwing, kicking, and jumping to big compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats and press-ups and plyometric movements like box jumps and burpees.

Working as a key stabiliser, a strong core can additionally improve balance and is required in rotational movements, which can be a key component in many sports such as boxing, tennis and cricket.

2 Injury prevention

Improving core strength and stability can help to decrease the risk of injury in everyday life, sporting activities and the gym. While we do often call upon the core to create movement, an incredibly overlooked yet important function of the core is to prevent movement. A solid and functional core can get you out of a bad position and into a strong one, saving that shoulder, knee or back when it needs help the most.

3 Improving posture and lower back pain

Lower back pain and poor posture commonly go hand in hand. They can often be the result of a weakness in the core, which leads to insufficient support for the muscles surrounding the spine. Want to stand taller, look after your back and take care of your joints? The answer is in the core.

Poor posture is a very common problem among most of us, whether it’s due to working a desk job or spending too much time in front of the TV. All that time spent hunched forward with our core disengaged can eventually lead to problems like internal rotation of the shoulders, neck tension or tight hip flexors. Don’t just focus on core work in the gym – simply spending more time throughout the day focusing on engaging the core can work wonders for your posture and potential back pain.

3 simple exercises to add to your core training

High plank with shoulder taps

-Start in a high plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders, feet hip-width apart and body in a straight line with your tailbone tucked under.

-Without letting the hips shift to one side, tap your shoulder with your opposite hand.

-Return your hand to the floor and repeat on the opposite side. Your body should remain completely still while only one arm moves.

High plank Xs

-Start in a high plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders, feet hip-width apart and body in a straight line with your tailbone tucked under.

-Rotate through the core to bring your knee to meet your opposite elbow, keeping both arms straight

-Return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.

Boat rocks

-Start on your back with your legs and upper back off the floor – neck neutral, legs extended and arms by your sides.

-Shift your weight backwards and forwards so that you’re rocking back and forth with control.

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