Joel Peterson, Personal Trainer

Core Strength is too Vital to Ignore

Joel Peterson – Level 5 Personal Trainer Apple Athletic Club

When most people think of “core strength” they automatically think “crunches”. Crunches are fine, but to build true core strength we need to incorporate several other movements. Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Crunches alone miss out on the many dimensions of your core muscles, such as your lateral muscles and your back.

Functional exercises allow you to incorporate all three directions when you work out, frontwards and backwards, side-to-side, and rotational. When you exercise in multiple planes, it allows you to target muscles from multiple angles so that you don’t develop imbalances, which can promote injury. This is the way your body is designed to move and it’s also a way to add efficiency to your workout. Planks, bridges, quadrupeds, lunges, and squats would all apply. As noted by Todd Miller, a professor in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University, in the Daily Freeman:

“Miller says that doing ‘abs’ in isolation is completely unnecessary if you are looking to improve core strength. ‘If you have a properly designed resistance training program with lunges and squats you don’t need to do abs,’ Miller says. Think of exercises such as lunging and squatting with overhead weights. This type of work strengthens the core because it requires the core to stabilize the body. But let’s face it, it’s almost swimsuit season, and some people want to go for the six-pack look. How to get there?

Eat less,’ says Miller half-jokingly, adding that everyone has a six-pack — it’s part of our anatomy. It’s just a matter of how much fat is layered on top. There is no such thing as spot-reducing fat, he says, so it’s overall dietary — and exercise — changes that create a calorie deficit that ultimately will reveal the six-pack. Working the abs to create more bulk will also help reveal them.”

For specific exercises that target your core, try these five great movements.

Bird Dog
“On your hands and knees (in table top pose), stay centered with shoulders over hands and hips over the knees. Raise the right arm forward until the hand is at the same height as the shoulder. Be careful not to shift hips laterally or extend the back out of a neutral position. ‘Reach’ the leg behind (vs. lifting it). Keep the core engaged and ensure the ‘reaching’ of the leg is coming from the glutes. Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.”

Work up to 30 seconds per side.

Dead Bug
“Lie flat on the back with arms along your sides. Lift the right knee toward the chest while lifting the left arm toward the floor behind you. Bring the knee and arm back to starting position. Switch sides. Maintain a neutral posture in the lower back by pulling the navel toward the spine.”

Work up to 20 repetitions.

Side-Lying Plank
“Lie on your right side with knee and elbow bent, and then push into the right forearm and right knee to lift the hip off the ground. This is the least taxing variation of side-lying plank. Keep the right hip forward and up, maintaining a straight line from the knee up through the hip and shoulder on the right side. Hold for a few seconds and rest.”

Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.

“Lying on the back with the knees bent and the feet about hip-width apart, lift the hips gently off the floor. Engage through the glutes when lifting. This pose has you moving opposite to the flexed position you are in while sitting at a desk.”

Work up to 20 repetitions.

Narrow Squat
“Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart. While maintaining a straight back, sit back as far as you can (as if you were sitting down in a chair) into the squat. Keep the shin relatively upright and avoid poking the knees out in front of the feet, as that can be stressful on the knees.”

Work up to 20 repetitions.

You will be surprised the progress you will make in a short time.  Add these exercises to the basic workout provided earlier.  Have fun and see you next week.

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