Core Training: A Key Component of Every Fitness Program

Core training has become a buzzword in the fitness industry over the last few years and is the basis for Pilates training (which has been around for decades) and other types of new group exercise classes. Leaders in the field agree that this is not just a passing fad.

What Is Core Training?

Your core – the area around your trunk and pelvis, and where your center of gravity is located – is where all movement in the body originates. In addition to the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus), core muscles include the internal and external obliques, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, and transverse abdominus. These, and other core muscles, not only help in making movement possible, they also function as spinal stabilizers. Thus, a strong, highly functioning core is important for all of us – not just professional athletes. A lack of core strength can lead to changes in posture and back pain and increase an older adult’s risk of falling. According to Dr. Edward Laskowski, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic, “The best brace you can give yourself is your muscle brace – the best corset is your muscle corset.”

According to Dr. Stuart McGill, researcher and author of Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation, there are three exercises that should be included in every core training program: curl-ups; the side bridge; and the quadruped or ‘birddog’. These three core exercises have been shown to sufficiently challenge the targeted muscles, spare the spine of high compressive loads, and ensure sufficient stability. Each of these exercises is performed with no equipment; we work our body weight against gravity to provide the stimulus necessary for increased strength in the targeted muscles. And there are safe progressions for the exercises, so they can be performed by beginning, intermediate, and advanced exercisers.

Core training should serve as a perfect complement to traditional strength training exercises. And for maximal benefit, it should be performed three days per week.

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