Published January 19, 2008
Just why is the core so important?
“Work your core.” It’s the new phrase that has taken the fitness industry by storm. New findings are constantly being discovered about the importance of core strength, and really, until recent years, the core wasn’t a much stressed component to fitness.
If you go to the gym and hammer out 10 minutes of crunches after each workout, YOU’RE SELLING YOURSELF SHORT!
Many people hear the word core and think “six-pack”. While a six-pack is a great achievement, it shouldn’t be mistaken for the core.
So what is the core anyway? You actually have two cores: an inner and an outer core. Your outer core is what everyone thinks of, the “six-pack” abs, obliques (“side abs”), and your low back muscles. Your inner core is all the muscles that surround the spine itself. I’ve used an example similar to this before, but picture a radio tower. You know, the kind that’s a single tower bolted into the ground with cables coming out from it.
That’s right. The tower would fall over. The same can be said with our bodies. The problem with just constantly doing different variations of crunches is the ab muscles are being worked way too much, and as a result, the abs become way too tight.
By strengthening the inner core, you set yourself up for improvements in every other area of fitness.
Just something to think about.
As a result of not being activated, the inner core muscles weaken, and this leads to deteriorating balance/stability, quickness, low back problems, etc.
The moral of the story, work the inner core. As I’ve talked about in the past, when designing a workout program, it’s essential that you incorporate balance/stability into the program. By strengthening the inner core, you set yourself up for improvements in every other area of fitness. That’s a strong statement, but it’s true! NFL athletes, track & field athletes, marathoners, NBA athletes, Olympic lifters, the list goes on, they all incorporate inner core strength into their workout routines.
Here’s what I’d do. I’d split your crunch routine in half. Focus on doing 2 to 3 inner core exercises at the beginning of your workout. After the workout, finish with 2 to 3 outer core exercises: crunches, back extensions, etc.
So to recap, strengthening the inner core provides a strong base for the outer core muscles to develop around. The stronger the inner core, the stronger and more developed the outer core. The stronger the inner core, the better your balance will be. The stronger the inner core, the better your quickness (jumping out of the way of a runaway person on rollerblades, seriously, I’ve had to do it before) will be. Finally, the stronger your inner core, the faster your muscles develop, the faster your power develops, the less likely you’re to get injured, and the faster the pain in different areas of your body (low back for one) goes away.
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Sounds like very sound advise. Every person needs to do an inner core workout once a day. I am tall, 6'4" and I used to swim every day. It's a great exercise for taalies because you get to stretch your core out in the water and perform constant exercise with a stretch, long, strong inner core. Now I'm a designer I have to sit at a desk for a large period of the day and my inner core has weakened. Bummer, but swimming is great. I play squash too, which is good for the legs and butt! Peace :)