When I ask people what muscle groups they want to work on, the answers are often predictable.
Women tend to opt for better glutes whilst men invariably choose to bulk up those shoulders or add definition to that chest.
Sometimes a client will be wanting that holy-grail, the six-pack. If it's just aesthetics you're after, you're missing a key element of healthy training.
An aesthetically pleasing set of abs can be achieved through diet alone if you're willing to be brutal enough, but this is about more than that.
This is about the need to be able to use your body, as well as look good in it. Building a strong core goes beyond looking ripped – It engages the transverse muscles and the lower back, strengthening them to help protect against injury.
If you don't build a strong core, your lifting will be limited. Your posture will be poor. And you're risking your health. It's that simple.
There is a growing awareness of the importance of working the core, but it's still often relegated to the sidelines when it comes to workouts. So what are the benefits of building a strong core? And how should you train your core to avoid injury?
So, what is the core?
The core is the set of muscles in your torso. It includes your transverse, your rectus abdominus, your obliques, your intercostals and your serratus.
Starting to see why your core is important?
You use your core when you pick things up, twist around to see what's behind you, carry shopping, kids, boxes. It's essential for swimming, walking, even sitting and standing. Injure your core and you'll really notice.
Your core is made up of fast twitch muscle fibres. These fast twitch fibres are stronger and more powerful than slow twitch fibre muscles, but they fatigue fast. This means your core is best exercised through short bursts of extreme activity. No more endless, long, slow crunches.
Why you shouldn't neglect your core
In a nutshell, we use our core every single day. For everything.
A weak core risks injury and can prevent you from doing these everyday tasks that engage the power of your core. Avoiding injury may be the best reason to train your core but it definitely isn't the only reason. Other reasons include:
1. Train your core to maintain mobility
Exercising and training your core strengthens those key muscles in your body and helps you to maintain flexibility.
Whilst essential to avoid workout injuries throughout your life, training your core will help you avoid injury carrying out everyday tasks such as gardening, lifting children or even carrying shopping, through middle age and beyond.
2. Build your core to look taller and leaner
Want a six pack (or an eight-pack)? Want to look taller, or leaner? Developing your core is the key to this too.
Strong core muscles can give you the ability to sit and stand properly, maintaining the correct muscular-skeletal alignment and avoiding unnecessary pressure on your spine. Your core is essential to looking great and avoiding those postural nuances that can cause injury and pain later down the line.
3. Strengthen your obliques to lift better
When training, weight has to travel through your body. Weight lifted to train the shoulders is transferred through your core, to your legs.
Failure to train your core effectively means you risk overloading muscle groups. As you increase the weights you lift, your core won't be able to withstand the pressure and your back will buckle, taking your lift out of alignment. You're left with bad reps, which in turn builds bad muscle.
Before you lift, lock on your core to stabilise your grounding and improve your lift. However, this is only possible if you spend time and effort working on building your core.
4. Protect your body in later life
Muscle gains aren't the only benefits that come from working out. Bone density also deserves a mention. Putting time and effort into developing your core now can help you build critical muscle mass and bone density that will help you to remain active in later life.
5. A strong core for a fulfilling life
Another benefit of working your core is being able to enjoy other sports. Sports such as swimming, running, golf and tennis all depend on the strength and mobility of your core. A weak core doesn't just impact your performance, it also makes you more likely to sustain an injury that can come between you and your favourite pastimes.
Is it time you start strengthening your core? Whether you are dreaming of a new, ripped you for 2018, or whether you want to protect your core from weakness and injury, my abdominals training programme will take you through, how to build those abs and strengthen that core, step by step. With programmes for beginners, veterans, and those in-between, you'll find the right programme for you. Alternatively, contact me today to talk about my 1–to–1 coaching..