Training Day Gym Educational Article - Train your core the right way

 You are training your core the wrong way!

So, with the rise of Instagram fitness models sharing their body and workouts, many people are copying these trying to grow and reveal their abs, not realising these individuals are often not qualified coaches/trainers and show the snazzy stuff on Instagram but not the other not so exciting but incredibly important exercises they do off the gram.

First let’s re-visit the function of the core system/musculature

There are several muscles that encompass the core, not just you 6 pack muscle (rectus abdominus), and all these muscles work together to provide stability to the spine & pelvis and to transfer force to the outer extremities. One of the most critical ways the core provides stability to the spine is by resisting motion, this means resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. To give you a better insight into what this looks like, Imagine you’re playing a contact sport, where bumping and tackling is allowed. If someone came at you for a big bump on the side, or to tackle you to the ground, you would likely be squeezing your entire mid-section very hard to brace for the impact or resist the impact, well that is your core working to resist changes in motion & support/protect your spine.

So what’s wrong with how you train abs?

Well, to put it simply, too much flexion! Let me explain. I’m not saying flexion is bad, it’s a normal movement. However, the human body isn’t built well for flexing the spine under load, especially if it’s being compressed at the same time (crunches, Russian twists etc.). If you don’t know what flexion of the core looks like, think about poor desk posture with a forward rounded spine and drooping chest, the way most people drive, the way we use our phones, the way we often eat etc. So as you can see, not only are we not best built for core flexion, but most people get way to much of it in their daily lives already! Combine that with training that postural dysfunction and you are setting yourself up for injury and back pain. As all these exercises which focus on flexion targeting the “6 pack muscle”, neglect several other functions and arguably more important roles of the core.

So how should I train my core/abs?

Great question, well as we’ve established, since we often have an abundance of core flexion, strengthening ANTI flexion, with it ANTI- extension, lateral flexion & rotation, we train the core for one of its most important functions which is to RESIST changes in motion. Not only will this make you stronger, more stable and reduce/prevent injury and pain, but this will transfer massively into all your gym lifts and sports/athletic performance or just every day function as it all demands a strong, functional and stable core system. Great example exercises to start off with are the plank, dead-bug and bird-dog, appropriately progressing or regressing these depending on your current capabilities.

What about my 6 pack abs?

Well firstly, don’t forget you have a whole body with hundreds of muscles, so don’t get too attached to just 1, but training your core for one of its core functions - to resist motion, with an appropriate intensity will develop ALL the muscles of your core, and with it your 6 pack. But, the truth also is that for most people, revealing their 6 pack is more about lowering their body fat percentage which comes down to properly implementing a nutritional strategy that allows for calorie reduction and appropriate macronutrient distribution to support body composition goals, but that’s another can of worms for another day, however developing a stronger more muscular body and training all your body parts in various ways will also aid in training your core and developing your muscular base so if you do decide to trim down some body fat, you will be left with a more developed and shaped athletic/fit/healthy body. 

Christos Akritidis

Strength Coach/Personal Trainer, Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science degree qualified Coach @chrisakri - Instagram for more information on training & nutrition for Coaching enquiries

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