Abs vs The Core

It’s really starting to heat up in Toronto, which means everyone forgets about function and starts focusing on their beach body. This is a good segway to broach the topic of core training and the mythical 6-pack.

First the 6 pack. Everybody has abs…so the determinant of how well they show is the amount of body fat on top. If you want your abs to show, get your body fat down. Abs don’t hypertrophy like biceps, so doing extra crunches won’t make them ‘pop out’ (not to mention crunches suck). I’m not saying core work isn’t important, I’m just saying there is no need for overkill. Do some sprints or jump some rope. If you are looking to see your abs, that is the way to get there.

Now the core.
This is an awesome piece of machinery when functioning correctly. It keeps our body in proper alignment, and is the bridge that transfers power through our limbs.
The core is made up of a slew of muscles that encircle your torso…I’m not gonna name them all, just think stomach, low back, abs, hip flexors, and you can also include lats and muscles that surround the pelvic girdle. You don’t need to know all of them, just know that when you do core work properly, you’ll hit the right spots!
When considering injury prevention think of the core as a bullet proof vest or a section of old medieval armor, it serves to keep your torso stiff, which protects the spine. This stiffness is also a great foundation for your body to produce movement. You would be surprised how many movement dysfunctions can be cleared up if the core is properly activated in the right sequence. Things we usually attribute to a lack of flexibility or strength of certain muscle groups is often caused by a lack of core activation.

One of the biggest mistakes I see, especially in athletes, is a lack of strength focused core work. You can do crunches til you are blue in the face, but they will not help you stay rigid against the application of high external forces. This is the true function of the core…maintaining rigidity despite external forces.

This is especially evident when you think of something like a heavy deadlift. Force application for the deadlift is through the feet, while the attachment to the bar is through the hands. If there is any level of disconnect in the middle of the system (your CORE), then you won’t be able to lift the bar off the ground with any semblance of good technique. Your goal as a lifter is to drive the weight straight up, but the bar is trying to pull you forward. A strong core allows you to resist a forward weight shift, and allow a smooth vertical lift of the bar.

While this is easy to see in weightlifting, it is twice as important to stay in a strong connected position during sprinting or sport performance, especially sports that involve physical contact.

How do we train it then? There are many different ways, and many more to be invented. The key thing to think about when you think core training, is whether you are trying to create movement or prevent it? Remember, the core is designed to prevent movement despite the application of external forces.

Serious Core Strength

My favourite simple core training exercise is the one-arm Farmer’s Walk. You take a dumbell in one hand, as heavy as you can hold, and try to walk a given distance with it. Key teaching points are ‘perfect posture’, ‘don’t let the weight rub against your leg’, and ‘don’t let your body tilt one way or another’. If you take a weight that is at least reasonable, you should feel one side of your core JACKED UP, while the other side is at least activated ‘sufficiently’.

Don’t be a fool. Train your core for strength. It matters more than any other body segment!
It’s About Getting Better!!!


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