Core training is a really important part of my training programme and has massively helped me develop and improve my form during my lifts. The ‘core’ is the centre of power and therefore training it helps you to avoid injuries, not just at the gym but in day to day life.
The ‘core’ is a lot more than just working on your abdominals to get a six pack. There are 4 different parts to your core and they all response to different exercises:
- Rectus Abdominals (the sternum to the pelvis) eg. crunches/sit ups.
- Obliques (side of the waist) eg. sides bends.
- Intercostals (Between the sides of the rib cage) eg. air bike.
- Serratus (between front abs and lats) eg. barbell pull overs/ cable crunches
For more information on this check out this article.
What does the core do?
The core stabilises and protects the spine, increasing stiffness (in a good way) and limiting excessive movement. Now, I know this doesn’t sound like something you particularly strive for when training but hear me out…
When you’re doing your main lifts (eg. squats, deadlifts and bench press) you require your spine to be held in a rigid position so that you can complete the movement with force. A strong core creates this, which therefore means better form and less chance of injury. It also means that most of your exercises will be core exercises, however, I like to incorporate specific core training into my plan.
How do you train your core?
The core is made up of mainly fast-twitch muscle fibres, which basically means they are pretty dense in comparison to the slow-twitch muscle fibres. This means that lower, heavier reps (between 8-15) are the most effectively for core exercises. Because your core is made up of a lot of different muscles that are only worked at certain angles, it is also important you have variation in your core training.
To effectively train your core it is important to incorporate the following functions (now bear with me on this one…):
- Anti-flexion exercises: These are basically exercises where you are resisting (in my case, unfortunately, unsuccessfully sometimes…) a weight attempting to pull your spine into flexion (basically, trying to make you curve your back). A deadlift is a good example of this. For core training for this function you might want to try some Romanian deadlifts.
- Next up is Anti-extension: This is basically the opposite to anti-flexion. You could do lat push downs to work on this.
- Finally, anti-rotation: Quite simply, this is when you try and resist a force that attempts to rotate your body. This could be an arm push up or a landmine press, for example.
The Importance of Breathing
Before starting research this was something I had never considered but it is actually really important. Most people, myself included, are ‘shoulder breathers’. Basically your lifting your shoulders when your breathe and, therefore, not letting your diaphragm work properly as well as limiting core functions. Instead, try breathing to the lowest point of your belly. It feels really weird for a while but its a good habit to practise.
You want core?
Having a visible six pack is as much about being lean as it is about having a strong core. Visible abs are not easy to achieve but they are also not the only reason the train your core (as I have tried to explain). I am slowly starting to be able to see the outline of what I like to think are abs but they soon disappear after a bowl of coco pops. Don’t worry yourself. Out bodies change throughout the day and you’re doing always going to look as lean as you do first thing in a morning after going to the loo!
I hope you’ve found this guide useful. I have been doing a lot more research recently, listening to podcasts and reading blogs and articles, so I will try and get more posts like this in the future. I got a lot of my information for this blog from various articles on bodybuilding.com so take a look if you want to do a bit of research yourself.