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Core! Not Abs!

Having a six-pack is arguably the most sought-after goal in the fitness industry today. Unfortunately, the mere thought of a ripped stomach leaves individuals falling short of properly training their midsection. The core is often thought of and referred to as “the abs.” In truth, abdominals only cover the front part of the stomach and makeup merely a portion of the core. The core is a combination of the abdominals, which cover the front part of the stomach; the obliques, which make up the sides; the paraspinals and gluteals, which are located in the back; the diaphragm, which makes up the roof; and the pelvic and hip girdle, which forms the bottom. Therefore, by definition, the core is a combination of numerous musculatures throughout the human body that is involved in every action of the human skeletal and musculature system. It is vital that individuals train their core by incorporating more real-life stabilization movements and do not only focus on flexion and extension of the spine. Each muscle within the core is responsible for different functions during movement and non-movement. For example, the lower abdominals, which consist of the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal obliques, provide anterior stability to assist the spine in stabilization; the erector spinae group acts on the posterior to maintain upper body erection. These muscles provide a base for the body’s stabilization during numerous movements and non-movements. In contrast, the external obliques are responsible for creating and controlling rotation, which is then assisted by the hip and upper back. Each muscle that makes up the core region has different responsibilities during the various movement patterns. Thus, it becomes vital to engage in a resistance training program that centers on proper development of the core and not just the abdominals. Abdominals act as a prime mover, which is the main muscle called upon to perform an action, do not have a lot of functionality. Although most personal trainers and abs programs place a major emphasis on developing abdominals, proper programs and personal trainers should also focus on core development to increase functionality. Total body core development allows individuals to fully reap the benefits of having a shredded six-pack or 12-pack. Benefits of properly developing the core include relieving lower back pain, having a ripped six-pack, more efficient power transfer from the lower to the upper body and an overall strength to performance increase. Proper core training entails movements often seen as total body exercises. These exercises often require balance with little to no movement. One of the most common core exercises that properly develops the core is known as the plank. This position requires proper core development and stabilization of the spine. The body should remain in a neutral spinal position, better known as lordosis, throughout the entirety of the exercise. With no movement and an awkward position, what makes this exercise functional to real life or sports performance? The plank places the midsection into a stabilized neutral spine position. Since the core is responsible for providing a stabilized base during various movements, a neutral spine will often allow for enhanced life and sports performance. An analysis of running and sprinting will help shed some light into how core stabilization is important. “Running is a series of unilateral hip flexion and extension movements that can place considerable amounts of destabilizing torques on the trunk.” More simply stated, running is numerous uninterrupted single leg hip (knee up) and extension movements (downward swings follow through), which require a high degree of stabilization. Running requires an individualized focus on each limb because it requires unilateral leg action acting separately. More importantly, running requires extreme core stabilization. The core provides the base for the hip flexion and extension, along with pelvis rotation. Without a strong core, one would not be able to run efficiently and effectively. Due to the nature of movements performed through the core, proper training programs should engage in both core and abdominal training. Functionally speaking, there are few movements that flexion and extension of the spine are involved in with regards to life or sports performance. However, developed abdominals will lead to a six-pack while providing greater strength for stabilization of the body. Your core is the center of all movement and, when forces are generated from your lower body, they must be transferred through the core to be performed efficiently. The core reacts with proper timing and control. A proper exercise program should entail exercises that require rotation, stabilization, power, strength, flexion and extension of the spine and exercises that combine all the aforementioned. Only then will performance be increased in every facet of life.

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