Abdominal (or core) training has been on the rise for at least a decade. We do exercises to make our core strong, make our abs look good and to make activities of daily living easier. In fact, regardless of your fitness goal, it’s undeniable that to be successful, some element of core training must be incorporated.
But what exactly is core training??
And that’s exactly where things get a bit fuzzy. To some people it’s doing countless crunches and Abs of Steel on VHS. To others, it’s all about the plank – how long they can plank, where they can plank, how difficult they try to make the plank. Then there is the philosophy that the core should not be isolated at all. The focus instead is on exercises that require full body movement and therefore can’t help but to use their core. So who’s right?? Who’s wrong?? The truth is, likely none of the above are wrong, and in all honesty, none are right either.
Core exercises will do absolutely nothing good for you, unless you actually engage the core.
Ever notice that your clients or perhaps yourself complain of back pain or neck pain from exercises that are promoting core training?? Why is that? It’s because the core was never actually properly engaged. Without proper core engagement it doesn’t matter if you are doing a 100 crunches a day or you can hold a plank the longest of all your friends or you can deadlift 200 lbs. Without proper core engagement all you are doing is reinforcing faulty movement patterns. Movement patterns that lead to compensation by muscles that shouldn’t be working so hard or stress on joints and muscles in the body that just don’t need that added stress.
It’s not enough to tell ourselves or our clients to “engage their core” or worse “suck in their abs”. It doesn’t mean anything. Think about it, how did you learn to do an abdominal curl? Likely it was back in elementary school phys ed with physical activity testing. Along with the shuttle run, flexed arm hang, 50 yard run and standing long jump, speed sit-ups were a part of the Canadian School system up until the early 90s. And so it began, poorly done core training, as fast as you could go no less, as a measure of fitness. Nobody pulled you aside and told you how to properly do any of these events, you were just told to go. And thinking about it now, has anyone actually broken down how to do a sit-up properly or even how to engage your core? In fact, I made it through my entire Kinesiology degree without one lesson in how the core properly functioned as a unit- about the deep connection between the pelvic floor, diaphragm, transversus abdominis and psoas and what needed to happen, and I needed to consciously think about, when I wanted to move my torso in any direction.
So the number one myth of abdominal training is the fact that you may not be actually training your core at all!
It is my mission to work with as many fitness professionals and regular people as possible to spread the truth about core training. The core must be taught how to engage first, then whatever exercises you want to do for your core training are truly up to you. If you’re ready to learn how to properly engage your core and/or want to learn how to teach it to your clients, watch the clip below.
Don’t miss out on this bonus – my top 4 do-anywhere abdominal exercises.