Hello everybody! A relatively lengthy article today, so I’ll get right to it. For this week, I’d really like to discuss core muscles and why they are an integral part of every single aspect of your exercise.
Your core is both your base and centre of attraction, not just for movement but also for stability. Every single muscle in your body relies on your abdominal muscles, internal hip muscles, and lower back for support and stability. With that in mind, I hope you’re starting to understand why I’m calling this article “mission8”: 1) there is no such thing as a 6-pack because your rectus abdominus (i.e. abs) is a 2×4 sequence of muscular divisions running along the front of your stomach; and 2) doing endless crunches (or ab only exercises) will not get you that shredded midsection.
There is a perverse inundation of quick ab schemes and fat loss tricks in the world of fitness that opine a beautiful mid-section, with minimal effort, is merely moments away. However, good habits and determination are not created in minutes. Acquiring a lean mid-section comes only through determination, both in diet and exercise, and an understanding of their insane importance to the rest of the body.
So why are your core muscles so incredibly important? Most of your muscles will propel you forward, however, your core muscles resist movement in almost every single exercise. Along with resisting movement, core muscles are also the first muscles to contract during an exercise allowing your body to have a workable fulcrum. I like to use the analogy of a car to help people understand. Your body’s skeletal network would be the chassis – or frame – and your core muscles act like the vehicle’s strut network. A properly functioning network of struts allows the vehicle to maintain proper balance, optimal function, and resist any/all unwanted movement. This means that before you begin an exercise, make sure you activate or engage your core muscles for optimal output.
When it comes to core training, there are two schools of thought on the matter: those who begin their exercise with a core workout and those who end their exercise with a core workout. There is credible research regarding the efficacy of both factions, so instead I’ll suggest something radically different (and this happens to be what I do on occasion). Why not incorporate your abdominal/core exercises into your rest periods between sets? Obviously this requires a certain level of expertise, so “exercise” caution. There are some pretty overt bonuses to this/my ideology: 1) you’re limiting the amount of time your body is under tension; 2) focusing allotted time on very specific muscle groups; 3) increasing both energy use and production from the use of two distinct muscle groups; and 4) although time under tension is less, the effort to achieve a shorter workout becomes, at minimum, twice as much.
Today I would like to end on a drastically different note, so perhaps I’ll end with some numbers and some advice. By the numbers: around 30% less chronic back pain in individuals that engage in periodic core strengthening; engaging in rotational core strengthening increases strength by about 30% in both sexes; and roughly 35% less arm velocity is required for swinging movements, with a strong and stable core. With these numbers in mind, imagine the output you’d achieve in your workout by incorporating regular core strengthening sessions? So my advice, as I’ve somewhat stated above, is that you will not get those perfectly sculpted abs by doing endless crunches. They require time and dedication, and not to mention the right exercises. So that means incorporate some other unorthodox and compound movements into your ab routine…perhaps some side-to-side flexion, or some 2-point planks? Whatever you do, just make sure you do it safely and with a positive attitude!
Last thing, I’d love to see some success stories! So if you’d like to show us how excited you are about the time and dedication you’ve put into a strong midsection/body, by all means post it on the Inspire Brantford Fitness Facebook page and tag it as “#mission8.” The same follows for Instagram.
Matt Picanco, BHSc.