Abdominals are the centerpiece of all things fitness marketing related. Don't believe it? Just log onto Facebook or take a stroll through Pinterest and you’ll see tons of fitness ads with oiled-up, chiseled and probably photoshopped midsections on display, each one promising you the same results. Take a look at any fitness or health magazine on display at your local supermarket. Same thing, right?
We’ve become conditioned to believe that sleek, six-pack abs equal healthy. Even worse, we’ve been tricked into thinking that aesthetics trump performance for the everyday fitness enthusiast looking to get in better shape.
The truth is, the core is what’s important, not just the Lara Croft abdominals that people fantasize about. Your core is a multidimensional, multifunctional collection of muscles located in the torso that does much more than suck-in and flex your abs. We’re talking about one of, if not the most important group of muscles working in unison to keep your entire body functioning efficiently.
There are tons of core training articles out there, and many of them offer advice that prioritizes looks over function. With a more modern approach focused on strength, you can properly train your core to help you resist injury, train hard, recovery faster, improve aesthetics slowly and—most importantly—improve your day-to-day wellness.
What Is the 'Core' Anyway?
As I mentioned, the core is what I refer to as "3-D," meaning that it’s three-dimensional in how it functions, looks and is structured. Honestly, the abs that make up what we affectionately know as the six-pack may be some of the least important muscles in the core group, which is incredibly ironic.
From a brief anatomy standpoint, the anterior core (front side) includes major muscles like the rectus abdominis, external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique and transverse abdominis. On the posterior side, the spinal erectors; quadratus lumborum; gluteus medius, minimus and maximus; pelvic floor muscles; and latissimus dorsi all play a role in core performance. While they are located on the backside of your body, remember that the core is a grouping of muscles and they all contribute to the function of your trunk.
Probably one of the most forgotten core muscles is the diaphragm, which can largely impact our breathing, spinal position and torso mobility. There are also muscles that never get the love they deserve, but can play a major role in the core’s performance such as the serratus anterior on the rib cage, psoas in the hip and the rest of the hip flexors.
Together, these are the muscles that work together to help give us stability where we need it, mobility in the right areas, and allow us to produce and absorb forces in any given situation.
Feel the Good Belly Burn
As you can see, training the core is incredibly important. Having a healthy, strong core can help prevent injury and enhance whatever training methods you follow, all while helping you to perform activities of daily life with ease.
When it comes to training, though, there are a lot of misconceptions. First and foremost, know that the most effective way to train your core is to participate in some form of full-body resistance training that involve compound movements. Activities such as weightlifting, yoga, Pilates, barre, boxing and other classes are a great place to start.
If you want to take it a step further and bulletproof your midsection even more, then you can start to work in some of these core-specific exercises. Follow this guide to challenge each and every region of your core in a safe and effective manner. Don't do it for the six-pack, though; do it for you!
3. Dead Bug
4. Stability Ball Around the World
1. Bridge Holds
3. Butt Walks
4. Single-Leg Elevated Hip Bridge
1. Modified Side Plank
2. Single-Arm Farmers Walk
Try these exercises based on the appropriate experience level that fits you, modifying if you need to take the intensity up or down a notch. Let this be the end of endless crunches, sit-ups, burpees and crazy diet pills in pursuit of a six-pack. Abdominals are not what we’re after here. Rather, we want a high-performing, healthy, strong core that will allow you to reach your goals, both in and outside the gym, by improving quality of life in a truly functional way.
Discover the most efficient way to target every muscle in your legs by clicking here.