The core is probably one of the most misunderstood systems in the entire body. Many people associate the core with just the abdominals. This couldn’t be more farther from the truth. People also tend to associate core training with conventional abdominal training such as sit ups and crunches which also won’t get you far. Along with the conventional training I see too many people emphasizing on fast movements and as many reps as possible. This philosophy is also flawed.
You really need to put more emphasis on strengthening those deep inner stabilizing muscles that surround your core. They are in charge of supporting, stabilizing and protecting your spine, pelvic and hip complex.
There are over 29 muscle attachments in the core and even more muscles that run through it. The core is essentially where movement begins which accelerates and decelerates dynamic movement. It also acts as an anti movement system which prevents extension, flexion and anti rotation. If you train your core efficiently through deep breathing, sustained contractions, and quicker movements you will build out the most efficient core. You must also understand this does not happen overnight and will take hard work from you.
There’s a lot of misleading information out there and that’s where we come in! We want you to really understand your core and build it properly. We want you to have a strong, flexible, stabilizing core that will help give you more mobility and strength in your other functional movements.
Once you build your core out efficiently you will notice a huge difference in your overall strength, functional movements, and posture. Let’s not leave out the abdominals!
Understanding your core: The two systems
Your core is the centerpiece of gravity and is more complex than most people realize. The core is comprised of two types of systems, the stabilization system and the movement system.
The first is the stabilization system which is mainly responsible for stabilizing and protecting the spine pelvic and hip complex. These muscles consist of the Transverse abdominis, Pelvic floor muscles, Diaphragm, Multifidus, Internal obliques, and Transversospinalis. These collections of muscles are those inner muscles that surround your core and trickle up your spine to your neck.
This type of system has mainly two jobs and that is to protect the spine and help support the pelvic and hip complex. These muscles are activated first and respond to breathing and movement. Think of these muscles as a foundation or support beams for your body. They provide that overall stability to help protect and support your core.
The second system is considered the movement system which you guessed it helps contribute to the more defined functional movements. Although it still helps support the spine and stabilize as well, the movement system is made up of the abdominals, lats, spinal erectors, glute complex, quadratus lumborum, and hip flexors.When developing and strengthening your core you must strengthen the deep muscle stabilizing system and then move onto the functional movement system.
Functional Movement system:
Latissimus dorsi, Erector spinae, Iliopsoas, Hamstrings, Hip adductors, Hip abductors, Rectus abdominis, External oblique
Main goal: Core challenge!
We want to really focus on strengthening those deep inner stabilizing muscles in our core that help to protect, support and stabilize our spine, pelvic and hip complex.
People with low back pain and or muscular imbalances tend to activate their core muscles less and have less stabilization for other movements.
These muscles are consisted of slow twitched -type 1 muscle fibers and they react to lengthened contractions, deep breathing and movement. So we want to start with those deep breathing exercises to help re-align some of those muscular imbalances and postural complications.
This type of training will help activate those deep muscles and strengthen them as well. We will then move on to a more lengthened contraction workout where we are holding the contraction for a longer period of time so those muscle fibers really react and activate. During the longer contractions its imperative that you are breathing through your stomach and keeping the abdominals contracted and pushed back towards your spine.
After we have really activated our deep core muscles, we then will add some movement to help strengthen the outer muscles in our core. We will do this with simple and more difficult movements that really focus on those areas. The last week we will focus on faster movements to really activate the movement system and set the tone for further training. We want to strengthen the stabilization system first so that it can support our more functional movements.
Benefits of this type of core training:
Better range of mobility
Help reduce the risk of injury
Help reduce the risk of back pain
Stronger foundation to support your other lifts (squats, dead lifts, presses etc) (bigger gains)
Help to realign muscular imbalances and induce proper posture
Stronger abdominals and oblique’s (inner and outer muscles)
More functional breathing habits (breathing in through your stomach)
Increased activation and stabilization endurance of deep inner stabilizing muscles
Good Nutrition = Good Looking Abs
Nutrition is the most important aspect of developing good looking abdominals period. If you are putting junk into your body don’t expect to see much results. If you want your abs to be seen you must drop your body fat percentage. You can do this by adding more cardio to your training program. This is what’s going to ultimately let them be shown to the world. HIIT training can be great for this.
Here are lists of things you need to do right now to maximize your abdominals and your look of them as well through nutrition.
Things to do
Cut out processed foods.
Limit your sugar intake (no soda or any flavored drinks)
Drink more water (gallon a day) (a lot more water
Intake more vegetables
Intake more protein (muscles need protein to get bigger and this includes your abdominals)
Limit your fruit intake (sugars) (I am not saying stop eating fruit, all I’m saying is not to indulge in it because of the high sugar concentration)
Low glycemic carbohydrates (getting carbohydrates from vegetables is a great source)
Breathing is important aspect of core training. When lifting or doing any type of contraction movement, it’s typical to always exhale during exertion. When you perform the contraction you breathe out and when you release the contraction you breathe in. So when you perform a squat, you move with the resistance and breathe in and when you go against the resistance with force you are breathing out.
It’s a very important aspect of training and must be done properly to avoid internal injury such as hernia, blood vessel strain and high blood pressure. Muscles need oxygen to perform efficiently and effectively so BREATHE!
Another important factor of breathing is taking those breaths through your stomach and drawing those abdominals back into your spine and driving your pelvic floor muscles upward. You will get more oxygen to the muscles and will also help to reverse you from breathing through your chest.
In most cases people are breathing wrong and have got accustomed to breathing through their chest. You do not want this because it elevates the traps and can cause pain or muscular imbalances in the neck, traps or shoulder regions. Focus on breathing through your stomach and letting the diaphragm do its job efficiently.
Core strength: Building your abdominals
Now in reality every exercise we do is a core exercise. That is because the core is working hard to stabilize and demobilize the body when doing anything like squats, bench press, deadlifts and shoulder presses. It’s an important aspect of training when doing big compound exercises.
The core is going to grow the best through heavy compound exercises. The resistance is a lot heavier and your core must put in more work to stabilize and support the load. We really treat the abdominals like any other muscles, Consistent training and heavy resistance. This will ultimately lead to bigger and stronger abdominals.
There are many different thoughts on the training of the abdominals and how many days you should train them specifically. Do to the muscle fiber structure the abdominals recover a lot faster and can be trained more frequently. I always strive to keep specific abdominal training to three days out of week so they have sufficient time to recover and actually grow.
During the initial stages of stabilization training you can focus on 3-5 days out of the week. When you get into the movement exercises you can keep the training to 3-4 days a week. After establishing this program, look out for our advanced core workout that will really focus on getting that definition you really want.