Core training is a very popular term in the fitness industry. However, during my time as a PT I have seen vast differences in people’s understanding of what this actually means. I remember when I used to think core, my mind would immediately go to the ‘6 pack abs’ and defined obliques. These muscles are incredibly appealing when it comes to aesthetics in fitness. Try and find any Men’s health magazine that has been published that doesn’t have a male with chiselled abs on the front cover.
I later learned that our true core muscles also known as the ‘inner unit’ are deep in the body and are incredibly important as they stabilise us for all of our movements. In fact at Functional For Life we believe having a strong core should be the number one priority when it comes to strength programs. To give you a better insight into these muscles check out the following video: PS I suggest watching on mute if your not into electro music!
Hopefully after watching that, you have a slightly better understanding of how these inner muscles help us to stabilise. A few key points:
- Strong activation of the inner unit helps to stabilise the spine during movement. This is particularly important when under load i.e. weighted squats
- The inner unit should always activate to ensure everything around our spine is supported a split second before our extremities kick in. For example before we step forward we will naturally brace our core before we move our leg.
- A strong inner unit wil help us to maintain a neutral spine position when performing loaded exercises such as push ups, deadlifts, squats etc. It is important to focus on keeping a neutral spine when performing the majority of strength exercises.
- When engaging in a strength program, working on controlling and strengthening your inner unit is highly important. It will help to perform exercises more optimally and reduce the risk of injury.
How to strengthen the inner unit?
There are numerous ways to improve the inner unit functioning. The following is by no means an extensive or comprehensive list of what can be done. None the less we feel they are a good starting point.
Start with activation exercises:
The following video focuses on activating the inner unit. A good starting point to help build that neural connection from mind to body.
The second exercise we would suggest in your core strengthening/activation progressions is the bird dog, focusing on keeping the back and the hips still as you extend your legs and your arm.
The third progression we suggest is planking, starting on your knees and working towards planking on your toes.
Finally we remind you, always listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right while your doing these exercises stop and reassess. There is a difference between a muscle working hard/burning pain (good pain) and an odd pain that intrinsically doesn’t feel right.
We hope you enjoy working on strengthening that inner unit! For more tips and advice keep an eye out for more blogs and videos at www.functionalforlife.com.au