Core Training: The Basics
Let's make it clear right off the bat: Core training and training for the perfect set of abs (a.k.a. the "Six-Pack") are different.
Looking good with your tummy showing is one thing, but being able to avoid low back problems for life, among many other things, has its unarguable benefits as well.
Core training finds its benefit in functionality. How often do we find ourselves in an everyday situation that requires us to do one hundred sit-ups? Not very often, but when we are reaching to pick up a child across the table, we require a fundamental core strength in order to not only pick the child up but also to avoid injuring our bodies.
There are a few components that make up core strength, but one in particular is the often neglected transverse abdominal (TA) muscle. When you see someone with a "six pack", you are noticing his or her rectus abdominus (RA) muscle. What you don't see is their TA muscle. That's because the TA lies underneath the RA and acts as a belt around the midsection. Simply, the tighter the belt, the stronger the midsection. You'll often see heavy weight lifters using thick leather belts to supply support to the midsection. We want to develop our own belt.
Here is a way to start:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Start with your lower back arched and off the ground.
- Place two fingers two inches below your belly button. This is roughly where the TA runs.
- With an exhalation, draw your lower abs down and in towards your spine. At the same time your lower back should flatten to the ground.
- Hold the position for 10-20 seconds and repeat 4-5 times.
- If done properly, your lower abs should flatten before your upper abs.
- Remember to breathe throughout the whole contraction and keep the rest of your body relaxed.