Why Core Training Unlocks Progress

Core training has been all-the-rage for some time for various reasons.  The bogus “ripped abs” angle persists but, little by little, the real reason for core training is being spread.  My take on it is that it’s the absolute key to just about all fitness goals, no matter what they may be.

Core training is so important because it unlocks physical potential.  Good core function creates stability, which sets the groundwork for all around movement.  Think of it as pouring a solid foundation before building a house.  When core function is good, everything from strength and aerobic training to kayaking, playing golf or just lifting and carrying groceries gets better.  If core function is lacking, all kinds of things can go wrong, just like a house falling over due to a shoddy foundation.

That leaves the question, “What constitutes good core training?”  For a lot of people, core training still means crunches and back extensions, either on the floor or using weight machines.  At one point, that’s exactly what we did, but that approach has been invalidated.  The current best method aims at creating stability instead of movement.  Core muscles are designed to control and channel forces, not produce them.  So instead of curling up into a crunch with the low back rounding, a better choicewould be a plank or stir-the-pot exercise where there’s no movement in the low back.

Kneeling Stability Ball Plank

Efficient core stability lowers the risk of low back injury and produces better exercise results.  For example, if you can stay aligned and stable in a lunge, you’ll get the maximum effect from the exercise rather than a bunch of compensations, like the front knee falling in or the upper body leaning forward.  Good core stability also leads to better running efficiency and sports performance.

Good Lunge Alignment

I won’t finish without touching on the whole “ripped abs” concept.  Think of it this way; seeing abdominal muscles is all about shedding the body fat that lies over them and that’s a separate (and lengthy) discussion about nutrition, total energy expenditure, sleep habits, etc.  It has nothing to do with crunches, twists, reverse curl-ups or any other exercise that creates a burn.  I will say this, though – good core stability training does creates a girdle effect.  I’ve had clients who decreased their waist size through consistent core stability training, so it can have very nice aesthetic effects on top of all the other great stuff it does!

If you’ve noticed the same effect, what did it for you….planks, bridges, dead bugs…?

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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