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Don't Ignore Your Core

Everyone is talking about core strength. But you won't get it by doing thousands of crunches. Get-Fit Guy explains why core strength is crucial (beyond those beach body photos) and provides a core workout that will keep you fit, healthy, and mobile. 

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #426
Photo of a fit woman doing a core workout

What Has My Core Done for Me Lately?

When you put these 15+ core muscles together, they form the core of your body and, in fact, the core of nearly all your movement patterns.

If you bend down, pick a box up off the floor and lift it overhead, each of these core muscles becomes involved. Which, BTW, is why a multi-joint movement is a far more effective core training exercise than simply sitting on a machine and pressing a weight overhead or doing endless amounts of crunches.

Core strength is the ability to stabilize the bones in your upper body, rotate your torso, maintain proper spinal curvature, and stable pelvic position while you sit, stand, and move. Beyond that, core strength is the ability to control your bladder, stabilize your knee ligaments, support your lower abdominal wall, and the ability to also breathe deeply and correctly while you are doing all these fancy movements.

So, yes, many movement skills, both inside and outside the gym, fall into the category of core strength, all of which you need to pay attention to today and in the future.

Why Can’t I Just Do Crunches?

Doing a ton of crunches can be an effective way to train some very specific abdominal muscles, but what is often forgotten (or skipped) are all the other muscles that make up the core. Simply focusing on your abs alone is an improper way to use your torso and can lead to some imbalances and pain.

Sure, if you want those popping six-pack abs, crunches are a must, but keep in mind that in order to really get six-pack abs, you mostly have to shed fat. Men, you will need to get your body fat to about six percent, and women to around nine percent, and if you read my episode Body Fat: How to Use It and Lose It, you’ll know that neither of those percentages is particularly healthy.

But I Just Want to Be a Runner

Many of the athletes that I work with have complained that I am giving them a lot of core work and they would rather just be running, cycling or pumping iron. But as a fitness program, none of those single activities are conducive to longevity in life or sport. What I mean is that you will not be able to do that one particular movement for the rest of your life if you neglect everything else.

Let’s look at running for example. The forces generated by running (especially excessive running) damage the renewable resources of your body. It is simply a matter of physics, gravity and G-Forces.

  • Standing is what we call a one G activity. In a one G activity, if you weigh 160 pounds, then your body only has to deal with 160 pounds of force.
  • Walking is a 1.5 to 1.75 G activity. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, your body has to deal with 240-280 pounds of force.
  • Running is a 2 to 3 G activity. If you weigh 160 pounds, your body is dealing with 320-480 pounds of force. And that is a lot of pressure to put on your muscles and joints—every single day.

So, by not varying your program, not only are you underusing areas of your body (like your core) but you are also using the same motor pattern over and over (and over) again. This type of repetition is a sure fire way to create overuse injuries in those poor overworked muscles that you do use regularly. At the same time that you're overusing certain muscles, you are creating weaknesses in underused muscles (such as your core).

There are a million (maybe even a billion) ways to work on your core strength and I encourage you to mix it up as often as you desire. But if you are stuck and need a little bit of help thinking outside the sit-up box, here is a core workout you can start with...

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