Building your Core, 6-pack included
Everyone wants a 6-pack. And even if you don’t, I think it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t mind losing a little fluff around the midsection. So how do you do it? Surely 100 sit-ups a day, or more will do the trick right? Unfortunately, doing that might be causing more harm than good.
The fact of the matter is whether or not your abs are visible, relies very little on how many ab exercises you do, and more so on your diet (My next post will be about how to lose body fat so keep an eye out for that!). Additionally, there is no such thing as spot-reduction. Meaning if you want to lose fat on your arms, doing more arm exercises won’t reduce the fat in that location specifically. Likewise, if you do a ridiculous amount of crunches and sit-ups, you won’t reduce your belly fat. Working your abdominals definitely has value, but there’s a better way to train your core, as well as get that definition in your stomach region that you want. But first, let’s define the core.
What is the Core?
Your core is comprised of various muscles. First, your rectus abdominis, or abs. That’s your 6-pack muscle.
We also have our obliques which are lateral to our abs, and extend from our lower ribs down to our hip bones. On each side we have external obliques, and internal obliques right underneath. And that’s usually the extent to which people train their “core.”
But you also have your transverse abdominis, which is a crucial and overlooked muscle. It lies underneath your abs, and wraps around to your back. Why is it so important you ask? Do you have lower back pain? If so, chances are this muscle is weak. Strengthening your TA is an easy way to address low back dysfunction, and it is key to maintaining a healthy body long-term.
Your core isn’t only on the front of your body. It also comprises of muscles on your backside. Your Quadratus Lumborum (QL), spinal erectors, and even your glutes can be considered part of your core!
Core Training Philosophy
While sometimes it is nice to feel a little burn at the end of a workout, there are more effective ways to train. Instead of thinking about how many repetitions of an exercise you can do, think about how long can you hold a position. How much force can your body resist, while in a disadvantageous position? And not only that, how long can you maintain good posture while doing it? I give crunches a bad rap, because it’s constant flexion and extension of your lower spine. Your lumbar spine isn’t necessarily meant to go through large ranges of motion, especially repetitively. Instead of creating movement like flexing, extending, and rotating your spine, try anti-rotation, or anti-flexion/extension.
A good place to start is checking out the video I made (down below). I filmed some simple but extremely effective exercises that challenge core strength and stability. This is just part one in a series of instructional videos I’ll be making, so be sure to subscribe to my youtube channel if you haven’t done so yet! Some common cues are keeping your stomach tight, and/or drawn in, while keeping your butt squeezed. Isometric holds (static holds), and eccentric lifts (slow and controlled descent) are great methods in challenging your core. You can also get creative with your foot positioning. The wider the stance, the more stability you’ll have, meaning the easier it’ll be. The closer the stance the harder. Then you can progress to a split stance, single-leg stance, eyes closed, etc. Possibilities are endless!
How to train your core, effectively!
Try this not that: How do YOU work your obliques? Often I see people doing side bends with weight. While this is one way of working them, your core muscles are MUSCLES. Doing repetitions contracting will cause them to grow. And if you already have some “love-handles”, doing side-bends will give you a thicker appearance in that area. Instead try some isometrics or static holds. Side planks are great, and there are many different variations to challenge you. Shoot for a minimum of 15 seconds!
Instead of a crunch, try a hollow body hold. Instead of a Russian twist, try a pallof press. If you experience back pain, Dead bugs, and bird dogs are very simple exercises that I would start incorporating.
Lastly, instead of a sit-up try a plank. Planks are simple, but when done correctly they’re a great exercise. I often hear people say they can hold a plank for more than a minute, but when I see them try, their butt and hips are high up in the air, they’re pushing their stomach out, and clasping their hands together for dear life. Try keeping your stomach sucked in, glutes squeezed, forearms parallel to each other. Resist gravity and maintain this posture while keeping your core engaged, and I promise that by the 30 second mark you’ll be challenged a whole lot more than by the 2 minutes of crappy planking you’ve been doing.
I hope this clarified some things concerning core training, the key takeaway here is to look beyond the conventional in order to build your core, and get that 6-pack you’ve always wanted. Of course, doing that through an eclectic approach! If you have any questions or want to request a video on any specific exercise, feel free to reach out or leave a comment! Thanks for reading, see you soon.