CORE VERSUS SIX-PACK: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Out of workout inspiration? Vitality Advisor and Lifestyle Coach Annemarijn Glasbergen provides your monthly set of new exercise ideas. Happy workout!
In my job as a physiotherapist, I regularly meet people who think doing regular abdominal exercises will also train their core stability. Unfortunately, that’s not (exactly) the case. While basic sit-ups or abdominal crunches may train your shallow abdominals, they do very little to bring you real core strength. Or a six-pack for that matter.
Core training, however, is incredibly important: the stronger and more stable your core, the more strength you have in the whole of your body. A strong core not only facilitates your movements, it helps protect your body against injury when exercising. For example, it will prevent your torso from rotating while running, which in turn will protect your hips, ankles, and knees. Obviously, a strong core helps to lift heavy weights and supports your back whenever you are squatting. And, ultimately, a strong core is the basis for a six-pack, if that’s what you’re after.
The name says it all, your core, the centre of your body. In Pilates, it’s called your powerhouse. And it really is. In fact, your core consists of around 30 muscles of the lumbar, hip, and abdominal area. To obtain true core strength these muscles need to work together. And it’s exactly that mechanism which needs to be trained.
How do I train my core-stability?
The basis of training your core lies in the ability to contract the deeper transverse abdominal muscles without contracting any other muscles. You can test this by lying on your back, placing your hands on the inner side of your pelvis and contracting the deeper abdominal muscles against your fingers. It is not a big movement, you should just feel pressure against your fingers, but not see any actual movement or visible changes in your belly.
Once you’ve passed this test, you’re ready for the real thing.
Here are some general tips for great core training:
- Keep your head in line with your spine.
- Breathe gently.
- Hold your muscles tight, first tighten your abs, then your buttocks, then the rest.
- Keep your pelvis in the same position.
- Do not extend your lower back.
Below you’ll find 3 well-known exercises to help improve your core stability. Make sure you train your core at least twice a week and consider starting your run with a 10-minute core warm-up. You’re sure to benefit.
- Kneel on all fours, knees under hips and hands beneath shoulders.
- Comfort tip: If your knees are sore, try kneeling on a cushion. If your wrists are sore, support them by resting your hands on the bar of a pair of dumbbells.
- Maintain a small inward curve in your lower back throughout this exercise and keep both hips facing the floor.
- Extend your right leg out behind your body, while kneeling on your left leg.
- Slowly raise your right heel up to buttock height, keeping your right toe pointed to the ground throughout.
- Lower your toe back to the ground and repeat up to 5 times.
- Repeat this exercise with your left leg.
- Extend your left arm in front of your body at the same time as your right leg both touching the ground.
- Slowly raise your opposite arm and leg simultaneously to trunk height (no higher).
- Lower both limbs back to touch the ground before repeating up to 5 times in succession.
- Tuck your elbows close to your body.
- Keep your shoulder blades back and down.
- Keep your spine straight and your chin slightly tucked in.
- Avoid dropping your hips.
- Breathe normally throughout.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet close to your buttocks (make sure you can touch your heels with your middle finger).
- Tighten your abs, tighten your bum, lift your left foot off the ground, but keep your pelvis level and engage your core. o Place your arms at your sides on the floor for support, but try not to push through them too much.
- Push through your right heel to activate your glutes and lift your bum off the floor.
- Only come up high enough so that your lower back is slightly off the floor.
- Keep your hips at the same level.