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Core muscles and core training

Core training is an essential part of any fitness program, but what do we mean by "core muscle strength" or "core training"? Is it just your abdominals that need a workout? What about your lower back muscles? Find out the what and why of training your core muscles....

core muscles trainingA lot of people think "core muscles" refers just to their front outer abdominal muscles, the ones that give you your six pack. But the "core" includes all the muscles of the trunk both front and back, inner and outer, that help with stabilizing and moving the spine and pelvis.

Having strong core muscles (also called trunk muscles or the "inner unit") that work together properly is important for all movement, from sports and dynamic movement to the basic functions of daily life. A strong core is a prerequisite for the prevention of injury, enhanced sports performance, improved balance, and proper training and muscular development.

And of course a strong, well trained core will also help your stomach look flater and toned! A six pack is very aesthetically pleasing, so read on to find out more about core muscle training and exercises!

Core muscles

Core muscles include any muscle that has a functional role to play with one of the five major postures: standing, sitting, lying on the back, lying on the stomach, or on hands & knees. This means that in addition to abdominal muscles, the greater core area is made up of all the muscles of the lower back and shoulder girdle, the internal and external obliques, pelvic muscles, transverse abdominus (TVA), gluteal muscles, and even hamstrings. core muscle exercises

  • Rectus abdominis muscle: commonly known as abs or six pack this is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the core muscle area
  • Transversus abdominis: so called for the direction of its fibers, is the innermost of the flat muscles of the abdomen, being placed immediately beneath the internal oblique muscle
  • Internal oblique: is the intermediate muscle of the abdomen, lying just underneath the external oblique and just above the transverse abdominal muscle
  • External oblique: is the largest and outermost of the three flat muscles of the front core muscle area

Therefore to maximize your core strength working just one or two isolated groups of muscles isn't enough. You need to focus on integrated training exercises that work several muscle groups together such as compound resistance exercises and challenging core & stability work. Swiss ball exercises are especially good for working the core because the unbalanced platform the inflated ball creates means more core muscles are recruited.

What do the core muscles do?

We now know where the core muscles are but why do we want to work them?!

• While no one is ever completely safe from injury, strong core muscles go a long way toward injury prevention in both sports and routine activities like carrying groceries or picking up a child.

• Strong core muscles help your extremities to work well in conjunction with the rest of your body. So when you're teeing off or serving, muscles throughout your body contribute to the effort and cushion the strain on your joints.

• Back injuries often result from weak core muscles, so by strengthening the core your spine will be more stable and you'll have less risk of herniation or a bulging disc. Our lower back muscles are often weak and are the first thing to go when we bend forward or twist. A strong core and core muscles can help reduce and prevent lower back pain.

How do you train the core?

There are a number of different ways to strengthen your core muscles with exercises, and it depends on your starting level and your aims for core development. It is best to talk to a qualified personal trainer to see what sort of exercises are best for you, and to make sure you're doing them correctly.

In genral, you should aim to work on strengthening your core muscles three times per week for at least ten minutes per session if you want to notice a real difference. Focus on the quality of the core exercises rather than the quantity of repetition, and keep the speed slow and controlled. If you can do more than 25 reps of a core muscle exercise it's either too easy, your technique is not correct, or you are going too fast!

core musclesCore muscle exercises

Exercises for the core include prone holds, side holds, leg extensions, crunches, sit ups, oblique sit ups, oblique twists, back extensions, alternating arm and leg raises, supermans, plus a host of swiss ball exercises such as crunches, prone holds, russian twists, jacknives, hip bridges, hamstring curls and more.

Don't forget that it's not just core specific exercises that strengthen your core muscles. You fitness training program should include compound resistance exercises such as squats, bench press, lat pull downs, and shoulder press to work the core muscles in a more dynamic method.

You might like to read this related article on core muscle training and using swiss balls.

To find out more about core muscles, core muscle exercises, or core muscle training please contact us!


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