Developing a Strong Core

Last week, I discussed what the “core” actually consists of and briefly focused on the structure and function of many of the major muscles of the core. You can have a recap by clicking here. This week, I plan to look at why and how you should develop a strong core.

The Benefits of a Strong Core

Having a strong core can have a impact on your day-to-day living. The primary function of the core is to help stabilise the body during movement. As a result, having a strong core will improve balance and stability during movement or exercise which will have a direct impact on injury prevention. When a movement is out of control the potential for injury is increased. With this in mind, it is particularly important for athletes to develop a strong core as having an improved balance and stability can will help to enhance performance and prevent potential injury. Additionally, many individuals do experience pain in the back, shoulders and neck which is often down to being seated for prolonged periods of time and poor posture. The development of strong core musculature will help to facilitate good posture, preventing postural dysfunction, muscular pain and muscular imbalances.

Understanding Core Development

The muscles of the core are like any other skeletal muscle you find in the body and adapt in the same fashion. Therefore, we need to think about training these core muscles in the same way we would train the muscles of the legs or the back or the chest, for example. Doing 100 sit-ups a day isn’t going to help. Here are guidelines for core training.

Building a Strong Core

Perform Big Compound Lifts

You may not relate exercises like Squat and Deadlift to development of a strong core however, they are practically essential to the development of a strong core.

What is a Compound Lift?

What do I mean when I talk about Compound Lifts? Compound lifts are “big” exercises which utilise a large number of muscles over numerous joints. The opposite to compound lifts are Isolation lifts which are “smaller” exercises which focus or isolate one particular muscle or muscle group. For example, a squat is a good example of a compound lift whereas a bicep curl would be an good example of an isolation exercise.

Why Performing Compound Movements Improve Core Strength

Lets think again about the main function of the core. As mentioned previously, the main function of the core is to stabilise and control movement – keep this in mind. Although the much of the core musculature is not being directly targeted during exercises such as squat and deadlift, the core muscles must engage to control the movement in order to maintain good form whilst being subject to numerous different forces. Over time, these muscles will adapt and strengthen as a result of being subject to these forces.

Compound Lifts to Improve Core Strength

Deadlift

Deadlift

Squat (Back/Front)

front-squat

Bent Row

Bent Row

Overhead Press

OverheadP

Bench Press

Bench

Getting that “6-Pack”

It’s important to understand that there is a difference between building a strong core and having a 6-pack. Having a strong core relates to having a strong muscles throughout the thorax whereas having a 6-pack relates to having a well-defined and visible rectus abdominis. Building a strong core does not mean you will develop a 6-pack. So, how then do you go about getting a 6-pack?

Body Fat Loss

You may have heard the saying that “abs are made in the kitchen” and there is truth to this statement. You must consider reducing body fat as you are not going to be able to see the rectus abdominis when they are hiding beneath a layer of fat and no amount of crunches will sort this. In order to reduce body fat, you must sort out your nutrition first and place your body in a calorie deficit. Read about how to effectively reduce fat here!

Focus on Ab Exercises

This is of secondary importance when it comes to building a six-pack especially if you already have built a strong rectus abdominis. Nutrition is absolutely key however it is still important to work these muscles to improve or maintain strength, size and definition of the abs.

Exercises for Developing the Rectus Abdominis

Gym Ball Jackknife

GBJack

Plate Crunch

Plate Crunch

V-Crunch

v-crunch-4v-crunch-1

Squat Thrust

squat-thrust1

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