Everything You Need To Know About The Core

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The core has become something of a holy word in the world of lifting weights and pumping muscles. For some reason, though, there are still thousands upon thousands of people who seem to equate core training with abdominal training, as if the core is one muscle that is located in your stomach.

This also explains the numerous websites, blogs, infomercials, as well as trainer using the phrase in order to attract naïve readers desperate for a six-pack. The truth is that the core is much, much more than just a six-pack, and logically, needs to be treated as such. It’s high time these shenanigans are put to a stop and all the misconceptions about core training are destroyed – it’s time to restore the true meaning of what it takes to strengthen your core.

Endless sets of sit-ups and leg raises are good (hell, every day should begin with a couple of sets of sit-ups!), but in terms of boosting the strength of your core, they can only take it so far. Eventually, your core will have to support heavy weight under serious stress when you squat, deadlift, or press, and this is something that a core built on sit-ups absolutely won’t be able to do. So kick the crunches aside, and prepare yourself for a heavy lesson that builds insane core strength.

But in order for you to improve, you first need to learn, so let’s start with the basics: what is the core, anyway? The core is a collection of muscles which stabilize and move the spine. Deep inside the abdomen and close to the spine is the inner core, which consists of the diaphragm, multifidi, deep cervical flexors , pelvic floor, and transverse abdominus. All of these strange-sounding muscles move first during movement or breathing, with one sole purpose – to protect the spine from any injury caused by motion and stress.

2The outer core muscles are also responsible for stabilizing and protecting the spine. However, they have more defined movement functions: the abdominals are the most well-known members of the outer-core group, while others include spinal erectors, glute complex, lats, quadratus lumborum, and hip flexors. If you want us to go all nerdy on your backsides, we could easily make an argument that the core extends far beyond the muscles connected to the spine and hip complex, but as far as bodybuilding is concerned, the muscles we’ve mentioned define the core quite nicely.

In order to purposefully perform core actions, you have to understand its function. We have cores because we need something to stabilize and protect our spine by creating stiffness that limits excessive movement in any direction – most notably extension, rotation, flexion, and lateral flexion. To put it simply, the core’s responsibility is to limit movement. If it weren’t for this limiting function of the core, you’d easily be able to rip yourself to pieces from the inside with just a couple of basic movements (a single deadlift would literally kill you).

When you think about the core, you would do well to think about the scope of strength exercises including the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. These movements require the spine to hold a rigid position so that the hip and shoulder joints can move with force. And you want to know who’s the boss when it comes to creating rigid spine positions? Yes, you got it, it’s the core.

3In order for you to make your core stronger, you only need to let it do its job of protecting the spine when you put heavy loads in your hands or on your shoulders. Now you’re probably thinking “But that basically means that every exercise is a core exercise!” And you’re right. If you managed to complete an exercise with good form, that means you managed to train the core to do its job. Consistently increase the load of an exercises using good form, and you will make the core stronger.

Before you go, there’s one last thing we’d like to cover while we have your attention, and that’s a short tip on breathing. You may not think that how you breathe makes a strong impact on your core, but it actually makes a huge difference. Most people use a trick called “shoulder breathing,” they elevate their shoulders and lift their rib cages to let air in, which is completely erroneous, because by doing so you prevent the diaphragm from doing its job.

Also, you limit the function of the inner core – the muscles affected most powerfully by breath. Be cognizant of your breathing and always make sure to breathe air into the lowest point of your belly. Breathe this way when walking, sitting, jumping, reading, talking, playing video games, lifting weights, lifting your girlfriend, lifting your girlfriend’s couch – seriously, it’s very important.


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