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Train your core smarter

By Gemma | October 01, 2020 | Fitness

When people think of training their midsections they automatically think of doing sit-ups or crunches, however, these exercises should only be performed once our core muscles are strong and not before. 

If the core muscles are not strong prior to performing these exercises, the body will use the hip flexors to drive the force of the movement and not the abdominal muscles. In this blog I will try to explain all about the core and why we have to be smart when we train it. 

The muscles of our core were designed to help us hunt and gather our food. It needed to be strong enough to drag our food, lift it and we needed to be able to run strong and fast to chase it down in the first place. Modern day life doesn’t require us to do any of these things and therefore the muscles in our core are not used in the way they were designed to. As we spend more and more time sitting sown all the muscles that are needed to stabilise us become weaker and lose the ability of subconsciously activating quickly when we need them to. In addition other bigger muscles decide it is their job to become our stabilisers and so we become more prone to injury.  

When we think about training the core we should be using exercises that focus on core stability rather than ones that just target the six pack muscle. We want to stabilise our mid sections as it plays a big role in aiding all movements the body performs in everyday life. This includes bending, reaching, rotating, lifting etc. By improving the stability of the core we are working on creating intelligent muscles that benefit the way we move, rather than having a toned stomach with muscles that are basically stupid. 

So what are we truing to achieve by working on core stability? 

  • Improved posture
  • Injury prevention
  • Improved balance
  • Better subconscious core activation for daily activities, especially when lifting. 
  • Improved power, speed and agility 
  • Healthier spine. 

Core muscles go much further than the rectus abdominus! 

The rectus abdominus is our six-pack muscle and is the muscle that causes our body to flex forward (hence crunches and sit-ups were designed). But our core also consists of the: external obliques, internal obliques, diaphragm, transverse abdominus, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, psoas, pelvic floor, thoraco-lumbar fascia, intercostal muscles, and the spinal erectors. 

These muscles all work in synergy to stabilise, rotate, laterally flex, extend, create force, and flex the torso. Another aspect we have to think about with these muscles is that they have different types of fibres. You may of heard of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibres. The easiest way to explain this is fast twitch fibres create power movements, e.g sprinting, jumping onto a high box, slow twitch fibres are good for endurance e.g distance running, cycling. When we look at different muscles within the core, they also have different quantities of muscle fibres. For example the rectus abdominus (six pack muscle) has predominantly fast twitch fibres making it our power core muscle, whereas the transverse abdominus has a larger quantity of slow twitch muscle fibres making it able to contract and hold a movement for a longer period of time. 

As well as all this the core can also be broken down into inner and outer units. The inner unit is our corset, we want to train this to work subconsciously so that it can stabilise us in any situation. We need to train these muscles to be clever and want them to activate before we have even thought about moving. 

The outer units role is to initiate movement as well as stabilise. These tend to kick in after the inner unit has fired up. The problem with the sitting modern day life is our inner unit becomes really weak and we rely on the outer unit to fire up and the inner unit kicks in late, leaving our spine vulnerable. 

Training the core:

We need to ask a few questions when we go to train our core msucles. Are we developing the skills our core needs in order to improve our quality of life and then once this has been achieved are we working our core in the correct way to improve power, speed, strength and endurance. In order to achieve this we need to move away from the old fashioned idea of training one specific muscle. We need to incorporate movements that challenge all the muscles at the same time so that we make them smarter. This is where functional fitness comes into play. We want to create better body awareness and train the inner unit to subconsciously contract for us. We are not only training muscles, we are trying to get the nervous system involved to, so that our nerves can help the muscles contract in a more efficient and smarter way. We are working holistically. 


For more information and if you want to work on your core stability please email: info@gemmafitness.co.uk