First things first: 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 that are far more important in the grand scheme of things.
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.
Components That Make Up Core Strength
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.
Let's Get Started Core Training
- 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.
Improve Your Posture
Core training helps your core become strong to keep you stable. The Arthritis Foundation's Exercise Program can help build your core, ultimately improving your posture and making daily tasks easier.
Use a mat for cushioning, and before you try the recommended exercises, talk to your physician if you have osteoporosis or neck or back pain.
Recommended Core Training Exercises
The following exercises are those which are recommended by the Arthritis Foundation for a strong and stable core.
Cat and Camel
- Start on hands and knees, looking at floor, with spine neutral.
- Slowly arch back like a cat as you tighten and pull in your stomach.
- Relax, returning to a netural spin and repeat.
- Lie down on your back on a mat placed on the floor
- Place your hands behind your head to support your neck
- Roll your shoulders blades up off the floor as far as you can
- Hold the contraction for a moment and slowly lower your shoulders back down in a controlled fashion
- Do twenty repetitions before taking a rest and repeat this a maximum of three times depending on your fitness level
Curl Up - Shoulder to Knee
- Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat, spine netural and abdominals tight.
- Place right arm by your side and left elbow out to the side with fingertips behind ear.
- Slowly curl up, exhaling and bringing left shoulder toward right knee. (Do not pull on neck.)
- Slowly lower head and shoulders to mat, inhaling. Repeat on both sides.
3. The Bridge.
- Lie down on an exercise mat, on your stomach with your legs straight and together.
- Lift your upper body and place your elbows on the floor where your shoulders were while lying down.
- Flex (dorsiflex) your feet so your toes are pushing into the floor.
- Tighten your entire body and lift yourself up onto your elbows and the tips of your toes.
- Make sure to keep your body and legs straight.
- Hold this position for as long as you can without feeling strain in your low back.
- Start with a few seconds and try and add more time as you progress week by week.
Core Quick Tips:
- 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.
Resistance is not just about lifting weights to get a better physique, but also to strengthen muscles for their functional use. We know that the upper body can bend forward, back and side to side, but it also rotates on top of the hips. This movement is key when picking up something and turning to place it down, at all phases of a golf swing, or just even when shoulder checking while driving.
To strengthen these muscles do the following:
- Put your hands on your hips and make sure they stay as still as possible
- Keep your head forward and always in line with the center of your chest
- Draw your belly button towards your spine and keep your back straight
- Slowly turn your body so your shoulders become as perpendicular to your hips as possible
- Rotate in the other direction and repeat for 20 repetitions
This exercise needs little to no resistance, but to challenge yourself try holding onto a basketball, a large book, or any other object that you can have a firm grasp on.
By strengthening these muscles, you will decrease your chance of injuring yourself while twisting and maybe also hit your golf ball a little longer! If you're looking for a bit more of a challenge (especially you golfers), try an ideal core exercise is the Tubing Side Rotation. This exercise places your body in a position similar to the one you're in during the golf swing, and develops strength, endurance, and power. The Tubing Side Rotation requires a fitness tube. Ready? Do as follows:
Tubing Side Rotation
- Grasp the handles of the elastic tubing slightly above hip level. Place the feet slightly wider than shoulder width, knees bent and torso upright.
- Step 2-4 feet away from the tubing attachment to create tension. Allow your hands to shift to the sides of your body when stepping away from the tubing attachment.
- Rotate your shoulders and hips in the direction opposite of the tubing attachment, pulling the arms across the front of your body. Continue to rotate at a high rate of speed until the shoulders are completely rotated in the opposite direction, and your hands are on the opposite side of your body.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 8-12 repetitions.
- Switch to your opposite side and repeat.
Perform this core exercise 3 to 4 times per week for the greatest benefit.
Back to Exercise!
Disclaimer: The material on this Web site is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or fitness professional. Please consult with your physician before beginning any fitness program or fat or weight reduction program. FitnessandFreebies.com takes no responsibility for individual results, or any claim made by a third party.