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If you had witnessed what a typical ‘core workout’ would’ve looked like for me five years ago, I presumably would’ve being doing exercises such as traditional sit ups and crunches through bodyweight and ‘core crunching’ machines. Thankfully, as my knowledge grew and the more I began to learn about the function of the core, I began to realise there was a lot of flaws in my own approach to training the core as well as the type of exercises being shown on social media.
The Function of the Core
The number one function of the core is to be able to perform any movement while keeping a neutral spine. You always want your core to be rigid and spine neutral whenever you do any movement. This applies to both loaded (weighted exercises) and unloaded (bodyweight e.g. sprinting) movements.
For example, when you’re doing a max effort hex bar deadlift and you’re about to pull the bar from the floor, the last thing you want is your core and specifically your neutral spine to give way. The moment your core gives way, the moment you lose that brace, guess what happens to your spine? It starts to round. When you lose your neutral spine position, when your back starts to round under load, that is when injury starts to occur. Legendary strength coach Louie Simmons would always say “it all starts with the stomach.” To demonstrate the strength of his abs and his bracing ability, he would get someone to rest a fist on his stomach while it was relaxed. Then he would set a powerful brace which would single-handedly fire the fist out the way!
I’ve made the mistake in the past of allowing myself to ‘push through’ the pain as a result of bad position and poor technique. But all of those reps, all of the weight your pushing and stress you’re putting on your body does add up. It may not happen today, tomorrow or even next week, but sometime down the line that lack of movement quality will present itself in the form of an injury. And when it does, you’re left with no other choice but to take a step back and deload from your training.
If you’re in this for the long haul, if you love training and its something you want to do for the rest of your life (which I plan on doing), it’s important you address your technique. And addressing your technique almost always starts with the spine. That is why proper bracing and maintaining a neutral spine are fundamental. And while core training alone and in isolation is not enough, doing a functional and well-balanced core program will certainly help. Here’s how I like to devise my core workouts.
When I train the core I try to address the anterior (front of the body), posterior (the back of the body), your lateral core (the side of your body) along with some rotational exercises.
Anterior core Training
Training your anterior core is a fancy way of saying you’re hitting the traditional ab muscles you can see in the mirror. These are the most commonly used core exercises. Examples include the following:
Posterior Core Training
Training your posterior core means you’re hitting the muscles in your back which you can’t see in the mirror. And if you’re wondering, yes – your core muscles are not limited just to just the ‘six pack’ muscles you see in the mirror. It includes all of the muscles which attach your hip, pelvis and low back. Examples of posterior core exercises include:
Lateral Core Stability
Training lateral core stability means resisting sideward bending of the spine. Examples of these exercises include:
Rotational Core Stability
Rotational core exercises involves performing any exercise which resists the rotation of the spine. I find these exercises as the most beneficial but also the most challenging. Here are some common examples:
Putting it All Together
When devising a core workout plan for you, there are a number of different approaches you could take. You could specifically focus on area per training session. E.g. Monday – anterior, Tuesday – posterior etc. Or you could combine all four forms of exercises and do them in a circuit based style. The choice is yours. You are now armed with the knowledge to find out what works best for you.
The most important thing for you to realise is the importance of training the core from a number of different angles:
Want to take the guess work out of it? Why not become an insider in my Lean for Life Transformation Program or my Aesthetic Athlete Program. I know these programs work and I have so much faith in them because I’ve done so much work on them. But you’re probably fed up of hearing me speak at this stage so why not checkout the testimonials to see what my happy clients have been saying.
P.S. In my free Lean 4 Life Lifters Facebook group, I describe in detail how to keep a neutral spine while performing a deadlift. Click here to join.
Adrian McDonnell -
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