The Correct Approach to Training Your Core
6 pack abs, a slim waist line, what ever you want to call it; everyone wants to work their core. Crunch after crunch after crunch. Doing everything we can to look how we want to look. Well what if we told you that your core doesn't actually work that way and that doing all those crunches aren't actually making your core stronger like you think? In order to explain, we need to understand how your core truly functions.
That's right, your core isn't actually designed to flex your spine like crunches do. Your core is really meant to stabilize your spine and transfer power to different sections of your body. In order to train your core properly, we can categorize various core exercises into the following:
1) Anterior Core Stability
2) Posterior Core Stability
3) Lateral Core Stability
4) Rotary Core Stability.
Anterior Core Stability is teaching your body to resist excessive lumbar spine extension (Also called Anti-Extension). These exercises include: Dead Bug and Glute Bridges on the simpler side and Stability Ball Rollouts and TRX Fallouts on the more difficult side.
Posterior Core Stability is teaching your body to resist excessive lumbar spine flexion. These exercises include Birddogs on the simpler side and all the way up to Deadlifts on the harder side.
Lateral Core Stability is teaching your body to resist lateral flexion of the spine. These exercises start with side planks and progress all the way up to single arm carrying variations.
Rotary Core Stability is teaching your body to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine (Also called Anti-Rotation). These exercises range from landmines to chops and Paloff Presses.
Even though we went over the categories to help understand Core Training better, it is always important to remember these two points:
1) It's not just what you do, but how you do it. It's cool to say you can hold a Plank for 15 minutes, however does it really matter if your hip flexors and lumbar erectors are doing most of the work? You are doing more harm than good.
2) A Core Stability exercise rarely fits into one of the categories above; especially when you start to progress the exercise beyond it's starting point. Take a Single Leg Chop for example. The Band anchored high above you creates a upward pull causing your core to fight going into lumbar extension, thus making it an Anterior Core Stability exercise. But the pull of the band across your body towards your opposite side front pocket, causing your core to fight rotation, thus making it a Rotary Core Stability exercise as well.
As you can tell, there is a lot that can go into designing a program that will effectively and efficiently increase core strength and stability and give someone the "look" they want. That being said we challenge you to find a point in the article that talks about creating lumbar spine flexion. You won't, because it's important to understand that there has been a lot of research done on core training over the last 10+ years and the ways of the old days have been proven to be ineffective and actually increase risks of injury.