Science, research and continuing education has turned the world of fitness upside down. Since the days of Jack Lalanne and neon spandex we have shed light on fad dieting, proper lifting techniques and balanced supplementation. What never seems to escape us is the continued myth that crunches are king when it comes to abdominals or core endurance, strength and that desired look.
Core things to know: The literal definition of core is “the central or most important part of something”. The complex integration of multiple muscles that come together to form not only our midsection but to promote the actions of most movements, provides the big picture as to how central our core muscles truly are. If we change our perception and acknowledge our core and abdominals as the most important aspect of our movements, then how we build our workouts must also change. Just as we train our bodies differently based off our goals, activity or sport, we must also learn to train our core to match. By doing so we can lift heavier, run faster and bike further.
Function: When it comes to powerlifting and finding our one rep max or just increasing the load we push or pull, we rely on our core strength and stability. Stabilizing every movement, our core is what keeps us upright during squats, holds us firm during a snatch and prevents a pulled back when completing deadlifts.
Focus: Closed chain movements (CKC) are key in regards to core strength and stabilization for heavy lifters. CKC exercises are performed when the hand or foot are immobilized and remains in contact with an immobile surface. Back squats, front squats, pull ups, push-ups are all examples of closed chain movements. Lifting with a purpose and focusing on technique will not only perfect the total movement but prevent injury. Most injuries stem from poor form and comes from the lack of core strength and the ability to control the force we produce.
Function: Breathing, stamina, posture and lower body care are key components to any runner. Correct posture helps us breath deep, keeps us upright and the health of our hips, knee, ankles and feet keep us in the runner’s circle as we age.
Focus: The term ‘posterior chain’ might be an overused phrase but is relevant when thinking of how to formulate a proper core workout. Specifically the mobility and endurance of our hip flexors, hip extensor and lower back are a great place to start. Running creates much pressure on our lower joints. Although we can only do our best to prevent those wear and tear injuries, we can do much more to avoid sprains and strains caused by tight muscles and weak supporting muscles.
Function: While core exercises won’t help with saddle soreness, it can make life for our lower back, shoulders and neck a bit more comfortable. Cycling comes in many different forms; cyclocross rides, road races and mountain biking. Each type of riding brings on new challenges as far as posture, position and endurance.
Focus: The posterior chain term is also relevant in cycling as posture will be your best friend. Having the endurance to stay true to the proper cycle posture will ease the lower back pain some may feel and save riders from hip and knee injuries. After establishing solid flexibility and mobility of your core, the focus should turn to isometric exercises.
Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.