Core Training

Quick myth check: Lower Abs

The lower abs people refer to is actually the inferior (bottom) portion of your rectus abdominus (6 pack.) It is one muscle which has upper and lower portions, but they, like a highrise, with its upper and lower portions, are one unit. Muscles operate on the all or nothing principle; if one part is working, the entire muscle is working. Sometimes you might feel it more here or there, but you can not contract just a part of a muscle. All or nothing. Check mate.

The movements and the functions of the core muscles:

  • Flexion: bend forward
  • Lateral flexion: side bend
  • Extension: lean back
  • Rotation: twisting

The core muscles have two more responsibilities; support of the spine and assistance in breathing. Anytime the spine is loaded, or, bearing weight, the core muscles activate and “collapse” around it. They work to keep it aligned and straight. Strong core muscles are more effective at protecting the spine. You may have heard it said that the key to a strong back is strong abs. True, and I will explain this in a separate entry. When you exhale, especially a hard exhale, your core muscles and those little sets of intercostal (ribs) muscles contract in order to force air out of your lungs. Reason number two for a strong core; more efficient breathing.

A perfect example of the core muscles performing all three actions at once, moving the torso, supporting the spine, and aiding in breathing, is anytime you cough or sneeze. Oddly enough, we all know someone who threw out their neck or back – coughing or sneezing. It happens.

Let’s take a look a few exercises which will do a world of good for your core muscles. We’ll take the four basic core movements and provide an exercise for each. There are many ways to work the core. These are the exercises that I find most effective.

Flexion – Forward bend

Crunches or sit ups either on the floor, on the ball, or combined with floor and ball.

Lateral flexion – Side bends

Side bends are done with one dumbbell on one side. You can also do these using body weight on your side on a ball.

Extension – Lean back

Can be done on the floor or Roman chair. Extensions on the ball force the core to work harder due to the unstable surface.

Rotation – Twisting

An excellent way to integrate the entire core and really imitate sports and daily “functional” movements.

What you are working….ALL OF THE ABOVE

These are just a preview of some very effective core muscle exercises. I am not taking the time to explain performance and form in this entry.