Understanding core training

Ty Valkanas

Thu February 6, 2014 1:28pm

By now we all know that to build stronger and more functional abdominal muscles you need to do more than basic crunches. Many athletes and exercisers have adopted the plank as the new favorite way to build better abdominal muscles. And while the basic plank is the perfect ‘go to’ core strengthener, if you want to build a better, stronger and more functional midsection, you’ll want to exercise your core through a variety of movement patterns that include more than forward flexion.
Core training is nothing new, but many exercisers still get a bit confused about the difference between the ‘core’ and the abs, and the actual function of these different areas of the body. A quick review of ab anatomy can help clarify the distinctions. The abs generally refer to a very specific set of muscles (usually the rectus abdominis, obliques and hip flexors) that extend between the pelvis and the ribs on the front of the body. The core, however, refers to the many muscle groups that encircle the entire midsection.
The body’s core is the hub of all movement. It consists of a variety of muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis along the entire length of the torso, and along the front, back and sides of the body. When these muscles contract in combination, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. It’s from this solid hub that we can more easily generate powerful movements in our arms and legs. A strong, and stable core is critical to body alignment, power generation, and efficient, pain-free motion.
One way to better visualize the core is to look at the various functions and movement patterns it supports. These actions can be isolated, but more often they are performed in a variety of combinations, whether we are playing sports, carrying groceries, or just getting out of the car. These main functions include: flexion, extension, rotation, and —perhaps the most important, but often overlooked function — stability. Each movement by itself is important, but they generally occur in a variety of combinations.