Livekick Team | Jan. 17, 2018

You've probably noticed by now that your Livekick trainer uses the word “core” quite a bit. He or she might say things like, “Brace your core,” “Engage your core,” and “Keep your core tight.” You may be thinking, “What is she talking about? I don’t care about core, I just want a 6-pack.” A 6-pack is a noble goal but it’ll never come if all 29 of the muscles around it (yes, 29) aren’t strong.

So... what is my core?

“Core” is a more comprehensive word for what we commonly refer to as “abs.” The core is a complex series of 29 muscles extending far beyond your abs, including pretty much everything but your arms and legs. Think of the core as torso to hips in 360 degrees-- front, back, and sides. It is your “tree trunk,” if you will, or the midsection of the body from which every single movement derives. The following muscles are part of the core: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal & external obliques, hip adductors, gluteus medius, minimus, & maximus, erector spinae, hamstrings, piriformis, hip flexors, and multifidus. The job of all of these muscles is primarily to stabilize the body.

What is core training?

Core training is simply doing specific exercises to help develop and strengthen all 29 of these stabilizing muscles. Strengthening the core muscles allows for better posture, more strength in all other exercises and movement (even simply walking) and prevents accidents like falling and breaking bones. Core training does not simply mean doing five million crunches. Core training can certainly include crunch variations but should also include heavy squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and more. Ideally, if the core muscles are engaging properly, they are working in every single exercise being done.

Why core train?

Americans are becoming increasingly more sedentary. Most of us have office jobs and sit anywhere from 8-9 hours a day in our offices. Then add another hour or two of driving, eating dinner and laying in bed and it adds up to… a lot of reclined posturing. Given the fact that our bodies are meant to move, prolonged sitting and minimal exercise weakens the muscles of the midsection massively. Our ancestors didn’t need to think about training their core muscles because they were on their feet all day, physically performing labor-intensive activities. Since our current day and age doesn’t require this, we need to put a bit of extra effort into making sure these muscles don’t wither away!

Who should core train?

Everyone! The torso is the body’s center of power so who wouldn’t want that to be as strong as possible? Strengthening the body’s stabilizing muscles will not only improve an athlete’s performance but will also help in life’s everyday tasks. Bending, reaching, hinging, twisting, these are all movements we do in our everyday lives. Whether picking up the phone that has fallen on the floor or going to sit in a chair at work, we all go through these motions repeatedly. The last thing you want is to tweak your back and be out of commission for six months because you picked up your toddler.

Benefits of core training

The benefits of core training include, but are not limited to, improved balance, reduced back pain, improved posture, enhanced performance and reduced hip tightness. If you have back pain, it’s probably due to both an unbalanced core and the fact that you sit most hours of the day and your hip flexors, which are part of your core, are extremely tight. With a strong core, better posture developes and creates a stronger lumber curve and helps to properly align the spine. When the spine is weak, it naturally curves (i.e. picture someone hunched over a computer screen at work). The spine is compressed and curved in this position, creating a great deal of stress on the back and causing tight hips. When core exercises are added to a daily routine, the core will lengthen, align the spine and activate the glutes.

In addition to reducing back pain and improving posture, core training can enhance overall performance. Perhaps this will mean a quicker reaction to movement or maybe lifting a heavier box than you've lifted before. You might be able to climb stairs without heaving. No matter the skill level, range of motion can improve across the board as well as increased gains in speed, quickness, and agility. And perhaps most importantly of all, core training helps improve stabilization and balance. With this, muscles will remember the unbalanced sensation and react to stabilize instead of collapsing. We all want to be able to sit in a chair and climb stairs well into our later years without falling and breaking a hip and so strengthening these core muscles is absolutely crucial!

For more on this topic, check out these 10 excellent moves you can do to strengthen your core with ZERO equipment. Speak to your Livekick trainer about any questions or concerns you may have!