IS YOUR CORE WORKOUT BENEFITTING YOU?
“Core” or “Core Strength” has become a term that is thrown around a lot in the fitness community, especially now with dozens of new machines and exercises appearing on the market that guarantee you that rock hard “six-pack”. We must understand that having a strong core is much more than this ‘superficial physique’. Core work needs to be respected and performed to support your performance and prevent injury. Envisage your core as ‘a belt’ and not just as a ‘shiny belt buckle’ aka ‘a six-pack’. Our aim is to train and strengthen our core ‘belt’ as a whole.
The core stabilizes and protects the spine by creating stiffness that limits excessive movement in any direction, ultimately protecting the spinal cord from injury. Our core is vital in movements that require flexion, extension and rotation - movements that require the spine to hold a rigid position so the rest of the body can move well. For example, having a strong core will prevent excessive movement from occurring within the hip complex, limits the occurrence of weaknesses such as hip drop in your running gait or holding a poor position on the bike.
But training your core isn’t just about being stiff and stable: core training is also about being elastic and malleable. Strong athletes all have the ability to be able to get into positions and then lock down into them to prevent injury. Developing this strength will enable you to become resilient enough to move through the continuum whilst being able control your movements.
Whilst core exercises performed on the floor have their place; exercises performed standing or with less stability require much more work and concentration to stop you from falling over! Imagine the single leg deadlift, the weight we are holding will want to pull us down, opposing this force will be the muscles in our core, as well as in our legs and back, which are all working together to ensure we maintain a neutral spine and remain stable. Working against a resistance in standing will challenge you to maintain a neutral position, as you work to prevent the forces that try to take you out of it.
You may think that single leg exercises are there to develop you leg strength, but when working effectively it will have a huge benefit to strengthen your core too. Most people naturally have a weaker side and so when working bilaterally, not only would these weaknesses not become apparent but the stronger side will generally always take precedence (do all the work). The inclusion of single-leg work will add variance to your programming and is great way to target supplementary and activate normally ‘dormant’ muscle groups. Over time this will lead to increases in your overall strength and support to your midline stability, ultimately resulting in injury prevention.