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Core Training Basics - Secrets to Strength and Stability
By Karen Cohen
Core training is the latest rage in the fitness industry, but not many people really understand what it is. There are many misconceptions about what it is and how it works. People know that core training is smarter training, but they may not realize why that is. Core training represents a more balanced and realistic approach to health. For a very long time, the fitness industry was completely focused on working muscles in isolation. More recently, there has been a realization that we were not born to isolate. Our bodies do not work with one isolated muscle doing all the work. Everything in the body is beautifully orchestrated to work together. People have evolved into wanting their body to function better in their sport activities and in everyday life.
Core training makes you look better as well as function more efficiently. The structural center of movement is called the "pillar", and by training the core or pillar you change posturally for the better. You will walk taller in your newly integrated body and have a leaner more athletic look. A completely new sculpting of the body occurs which is impossible when the muscles are trained in isolation. Despite the notion that core training is just about the lower back and the abdominals, it really incorporates your entire torso and the muscles that attach to your pelvis. The "pillar" includes hip, shoulder and trunk stability offering the ability to build power in your movements.
In core training you focus on multi-dimensional “power” moves calling upon many muscles to work together for maximum training benefit. Many training programs are based on the one-dimensional movements of bodybuilding. There is plenty of pushing and pulling, but rarely are the hips, torso, pelvis or lower back integrated into the movements. You may gain strength, but not the power - the ability to generate force behind your movements. For example, bodybuilders can lift heavy weights, but they cannot generate much force with a tennis racket. This is because they don't work the small muscles that support their hips, torso, shoulders and back, and they tend to have little flexibility. You have got to train movements, not just body parts.
It is impossible to move your limbs efficiently and with force if they are not attached to something solid and stable. You can train the strongest abdominals and low back, but if your shoulders round forward like most computer-jockeys you can still have shoulder problems or poor, inefficient posture. Less than ideal hip stability will tighten the IT (iliotibial) band and strain the lower back and knees when you run. This sets up the conditions for pain and possible injury.
One of the best tests to determine the strength of your core is the simple glute bridge. There are some people who can squat 500 pounds, but cannot maintain a glute bridge for five seconds. Lie face-up with your knees bent at 90 degrees and your heels on the floor, toes lifted, arms straight out at about 45 degrees from torso, arms and palms flat on the floor. With the navel drawn in, lift your hips. Only hands, arms, shoulders, head and heels should remain on the floor. If you can't hold a straight line between your knees and shoulders for 30 seconds, your core is not working well. Time to get to the core of things!