OPINION – This week our focus is on the spine. When we refer to spinal stability, most people are immediately skeptical because it sounds like we’re going to get into some deep scientific deliberation of the human body, which I freely admit is kind of boring to the majority of us. But if we say we’re going to discuss the benefits of working our “core,” strangely, eyes widen and ears perk up, and now they are interested.
Every few years in the fitness world, just as in any other industry, we find an abundance of fads — be it diets such as South Beach, Atkins or (insert latest craze here). To that end, the overuse and misunderstanding of the most commonly used phrase in the fitness world today is the “core.”
Let’s be clear: I am not encouraging you to ignore the benefits of core training. My goal for this column is to promote a better understating of what the “core” is and how you can strengthen it with a few exercises.
Just about every day I here the following phrases “I need to work on my core,” “Can we focus on the core today?” and “How do I work my core?” But what they are really saying is “I need to work my abs,” “Can we focus on the abs?” and “How do I work my abs?”
Here’s where the fad comes into play. Most people get their information regarding fitness from late night infomercials, fitness and gossip magazines and the person that looks the best in a tank top within their circle of friends. All of which limits the definition to be simply your abdominal muscles.
The core is so much more than doing a bunch of crunches. Your core muscles are responsible for the support of your spine. That includes any of the muscles attached to your lower back, hips and pelvis. In other words, any training is core training. For the sake of brevity, below are a few exercises. If you want a more detailed analysis of core training and why its beneficial, email me and I will give you enough to put you to sleep. These exercises promote a strong core and spinal stability.
1. Back Squats
6-10 reps 4-6 sets
Placing a barbell across your back just below your shoulders. Squat into a seated position attempting to go to a 90 degree angle or lower. Which simply means try to get your butt parallel to your knees or lower.
2. Opposite arm leg raise
10-20 reps 4-6 sets
Start by positioning yourself on the floor on your hands and knees. Next raise the opposite arm and leg simultaneously, leaving you balancing on the opposite knee and hand. To increase the difficulty, in the same position keep your toes off the ground while performing the exercise. To further increase the difficulty go to a push up position and proceed with the movement.
3. Single arm bent-over row
8-10 reps on each arm 4-6 sets
Begin by placing the same arm and leg on a bench leaving your opposite leg on the floor for stability. With your free hand pull the dumbbell toward your belly while keeping your chest out and your back straight.
4. Walking lunges
10-20 reps 4-6 sets
Step forward into the lunge position leaving both of your legs bent at a 90 degree angle.
5. Pull ups
As many as you can 4-6 sets
Pull ups not chin ups! What’s the difference? Pull ups are done by placing you palms when gripping the bar opposite your face. With chin ups you palms are facing you while gripping the bar.
6. Push up
10-16 reps 4-6 sets.
Yes, the good old fashion push up. This exercise puts tremendous stress on your abs. While the majority of the work is felt in your chest and arms, your abs are primary stabilizer for your spine.
Remember to stretch and warm up before performing any exercise program.
By Bryan Washington
Bryan Washington is the strength and conditioningcCoordinator at Midtown Strength and Conditioning in Sacramento. He also works as the strength and conditioning coach for the Sacramento State Hornets baseball team. He’s prepared numerous locals athletes for their collegiate and professional careers in addition to helping everyday people reach their fitness goals. For more information, connect with Bryan through the following: