David, is "core training" really legit, or is it just the latest fad? I see the infomercials on TV and I see trainers in my gym doing some really weird exercises, especially on the ball, and I just have to wonder, with so many other gimmicks, if this is just another one? It's hard to tell the difference any more. Thanks
It's rare that a new training modality bursts out into the mainstream and gets as much publicity and ad time as core training has... and then to have this "new fad"
actually pan out and have some merit to it.
Well, believe it or not, Core training is the real thing!
However, I do have to agree with you that "core training" and “functional training" can be taken to ridiculous and impractical extremes. It is also sometimes positioned by the advertising media as a "miracle" solution for obesity and fat reduction, among other things.
In my articles, newsletters and lectures, I always have to repeat myself when it comes to the subject of body fat reduction.
The truth is, abdominal exercise - including core training - does not reduce the body fat in your abdominal region. What it does is to strengthen and condition the muscles
of the abdominal region, improve performance and help prevent injuries.
To SEE your ab muscles, you must lower your body fat percentage. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you see advertisements that say an ab machine or core training method is – completely by itself – going to burn the fat off your stomach, then you are much more likely to be looking at a gimmick or at least a misrepresentation of the facts (and I would be hesitant to do business with companies like that).
Fat loss must be accomplished through a calorie deficit and good nutrition, along with strength training and a moderate dose of cardio (but not too much).
Ok, now let's talk about core training specifically. A lot of people have heard of core training because it has filtered into the mainstream, with best selling books, videos and exercise classes at health clubs and so on, but for the people who still don't know what core training is, here is a simple explanation:
Training the core is a very important issue for all people of all ages. The first point I'd like to make is that most people do not get a good evaluation before starting a core training program. People just jump right into a core conditioning class, buy the DVD's from an infomercial, or try advanced movements they see in a magazine and this can lead to many orthopedic injuries.
I'm not saying you need a PhD in functional anatomy and kinesiology, but you should know what type of exercise to perform for your needs, as well as how much and how long you should do each and every exercise.
When we are talking about core conditioning, there are two different muscular systems at work. They are referred to as the inner unit, which consists of the transverse abdominis, diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor. These are deep abdominal muscles and they are important to core stability and function.
Then there are the outer unit muscles, which are all the prime movers of your skeletal system. You must get the inner unit working well before you embark on a
hard core conditioning program.
When conditioning your core, think of yourself as a big top spinning, with everything emanating from the middle (core) out. If you wobble in the middle, you will, in theory, become off balance and fall over faster. This sets you up for decreased performance and increased injury potential.
Show me a weak core and I will show you many orthopedic injuries. Remember, getting injured should never be part of an exercise program.
To prevent injury, develop a base and concentrate on building a functional inner unit. Protecting the spine is high on the hierarchy of survival. To protect the spine and its important function, we must understand what makes the inner and outer unit muscles work. Working the inner unit muscles simply leads to better core control.
Your ability to respond to situations in everyday life from bending down to picking up keys you dropped on the ground, to putting a baby in his or her crib, will be greatly enhanced when you have trained this system correctly.
The term "core training" is often used interchangeably or in association with the terms "functional training" or "functional movement," although there is a distinction
between the two. Core training is actually a form of functional training, so functional training is a broader description of an important training concept.
Functional training is popular today as it well should be. It really revolves around integrated, multi-dimensional movements that sometimes change speed in all planes of motion.
I don't want to get into a deep discussion about exercise kinesiology or biomechanics as that’s not appropriate for this particular website column, so to understand functional training, just think of everyday life: How many leg extensions or leg curls do you perform in everyday life as compared to squats? Squatting down is a natural,
"everyday" movement. In other words, the squat exercise is "functional."
I strongly suggest avoiding the overuse of machines (which are non-functional), and starting to design your training in a functional manner.
I help people do this in person at my training studio in Tacoma and on line at my personal training web site. Functional training for the adbominals and entire midsection is also the foundational principle behind my Firm and Flatten Your Abs e-book, and you can get more information on that at http://www.flattenyourabs.net
The word "integration" is also mentioned frequently in discussions of core training and functional training. This means that we do not condition or train by isolating
muscles. We "bring together" all the muscles of the body to work as a unit - that's integration. In sports training, the concept of integration is embodied in the maxim, "train movements, not muscles."
Try to do a bicep curl on a machine, then do a bicep curl with a single heavy dumbbell. You will notice right away that your entire body must stabilize and work together for you to curl that dumbbell.
There are times you have to break this law, such as after knee surgery when you will not squat until you've done some leg extensions with the physical therapist, or in the case of bodybuilders who intentionally isolate, but those are the exceptions not the rule.
There is nothing wrong with training just to look good, the way bodybuilders train. Although I train elite athletes, specializing in boxing, golf, baseball and wrestling, I realize that most people are training to... well... to "look good naked!"
I'm not knocking bodybuilding or training for so called "vanity" reasons. However, even if your goal is looks and NOT performance, there is still no reason to train only form (looks) and not function if you have a way to train both at the same time.
That is the beauty and uniqueness of core training programs. If you want flat, ripped, six pack abdominals, then you can get them by properly using core training and functional training methods (along with proper diet). But the added bonus is that you will also have a stable, injury proof core and abdominal muscles that are every bit as strong and athletic as they look!
If you would like to learn more about core training, then I invite you to visit my website and get more information at: