What You Might be Doing Wrong with Your Core Training

If there’s one thing most people like about working out it’s core training.

This transcends age, goal, sport, training history, sex and geographic boundaries. Every client I meet with, whether performance or fitness oriented, expresses a stronger core as one of their goals.

And this means different things to different people.

For the average gym goer this is what they might associate with a strong core:

And for those with a little more understanding of what defines the core this might be what makes sense to them:

I remember Dr. Stuart McGill mentioned once that spinal stability increases the closer you get to world record loads in your lifts. But that’s a topic for another time.

So, you can see for some the concept of the core is an aesthetic representation of the superficial muscles, primarily the abdominals. And for others a strong core is less superficial, involves multiple muscles and translates to performance.

But regardless of what our connotation of the core is both groups may be guilty of making the same mistake with their training.

Here are 3 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong with Your Core Training.

1. Not Doing Core Training

What? How does that make sense?

Well, because some of us never progress past core exercises. Which are great but at a certain point we need to integrate some of the exercises we’ve done to stabilize and strengthen the core and incorporate them into lifts that:

*  use higher loads

* use the whole body

* that involve movement

* that involve power

Because failing to do so keeps us at the level of simply doing core exercises rather than progressing to core training.

2. Everything High Threshold

Have you heard your core compared to a certain part of your car?

If you said your brakes/suspension you’d be right.

This is because your core helps to reduce force. It helps us deccelerate. It helps us change direction. And it helps maintain body position in the midst of external perturbations.

Kind of like your car’s brakes and suspension.

Now riddle me this…

Would you ever drive your car with the brakes pressed through the floor?

Or even go into a turn and lock up the brakes? Not on purpose anyways, right?

Well that’s the way some people approach their core training.

They are trying so hard to contract, squeeze and isolate their core that they train their core musculature to redline whenever they need it work for them.

And at a recent conference I attended a top level physiotherapist (think NBA, US military, champion powerlifter, doctorate) showed that those with the strongest, most stable cores don’t exhibit the highest EMG data when looking at core musculature activity.

I found this fascinating. That the stronger our core is the less we need to rely on it to stabilize the body.

I guess this would be similar to a high level race car driver not locking up his brakes and staying closer to the optimal course. This results in less wear and tear as well as a more efficient ride.

3. Not Saying When

This one is big pet peeve of mine.

And unfortunately it is perppetuated by some well intentioned sports coaches and trainers. Here’s how it goes.

A training session ends and there is going to be a challenge at the end. Who can hold a plank position the longest?

What ends up happening is that the individual does whatever it takes to stay on their forearms and feet. So we see:

* the head falls

* the scapula protract

* increased extension (arch) of the low back

* increased anterior tilt of the hips/pelvis

* an overall sagging of the torso, especially at the hips

* shifting from the balls of the feet to the toes

But we held our plank for 60 seconds. So this was a good thing (sarcasm).

Unfortunately this is how many are coached and train their core.

Instead of going to the point of total kinetic breakdown stop at the point when:

* there is loss of ideal positioning

* breathing changes

* you feel yourself straining to maintain form

In the space below let me know what you think about these 3 points. How have you trained your core in the past? Has this article changed the way you will aproach your core training in the future?

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

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2 Responses to What You Might be Doing Wrong with Your Core Training

  1. Dov Schafer says:

    It is funny about plank compared to core strength; I used to be able to hold plank for 4 minutes when I was out of shape and just starting to lose weight. Now that I am fit and 185 I cannot hold plank for more than 1.5 minutes because my muscles burn and scream for fuel. Perhaps this is because I listen to my body now, or like you say, holding the proper form is much much harder than simply holding plank. I just felt this was a good illustration of how fitness doesn’t always translate into performance for non ecologically valid movements (isolation exercises) but clearly translates into faster and more explosive real life movements.

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