In this era of mid-section madness, flat and fit only get you so far. That is why it is crucial to understand the importance of training for strength and flexibility when working on the waistline. Not only will you reach your flat and fit goal faster, but with core-training, every action–whether picking up the groceries or performing dumbbells curls — improves. Core training helps your body become stronger and more mobile, which changes the way you perform throughout your day. Hundreds of crunches a day leave the rectus abdominus (the long abdominal muscle that runs down the front of your body) exhausted, but does little to slim down the waistline, strengthen the core, or increase mobility. The key to gaining the most from your midsection is core-training.
Core training is a fitness term that encompasses using the entire midsection, not just the “abs,” when performing abdominal training. Many may be shocked to discover that there is so much more to the waistline than just the “abs.” Let’s examine all the muscles considered in core-training: the rectus abdominus, — as mentioned above;, the obliques, — the muscles that run diagonally along both sides of the body; the transverse abdominus which circles the waist like a belt; the erector spinae — a back muscle that runs along both sides of the spine; the latissimus dorsi — another major muscle on the back side, and more. Clearly, there is more to your core than just your abs.
With all these muscles in mind, how is core-training different than the old school abdominal exercises still seen in gyms today? Old school abdominal exercises like crunches and crunch/twists train the abdominal muscles for endurance, not strength. One way to tell if you are training a certain muscle for endurance is the number of repetitions performed in each set — anything above 12 repetitions is endurance training. Core training includes endurance training like crunches, but adds strength and flexibility components to the mix.
A strength component can be added to your current abdominal routine by simply adding a medicine ball. (Medicine balls are available in the equipment room at the Campus Recreation Center.) Holding a medicine ball across the chest or above the head while performing a crunch is an excellent way to build strength in the abdominal muscles. On the flip side, holding a 5 to 10lb plate across your chest while lifting the top half of your body brings the strength component to the backside. This exercise is done on the stand; located at the end of the steppers in the Campus Recreation Center. With core training, there are so many different exercises you can perform using fitness equipment like a physioball, medicine ball, cables, and much more.
The final and often-forgotten component in abdominal training is flexibility. Especially with age, people lose a good portion of flexibility in the lower back. This loss makes even carrying in the groceries harder than it should be. Both the low back and abdominal muscles should be stretched three times for no less than 15 seconds each time you workout. If the lower back is too tight or not flexible enough, abdominal muscles are limited from reaching their full range of motion; therefore abdominal gains are cut short. Instead of thinking of stretching as a waste of time, think of it as time well spent on your waist. And instead of wasting your time on literally hundreds of crunches a day, mix in a medicine ball and feel the strength begin to build. Finally, flip over on your stomach and give your back some attention. Your abs will thank you in more ways than one. With these tips you are now equipped to take your abs to a new level of training: core training.