Core Training: How To Safely & Effectively Train Your Core
This post is a follow up to an earlier post by Ashok Bhandari on the structure and function of “the core.” This previous post broke down some of the minor and major concerns associated with a weak or dysfunctional core, and also highlighted some of the major structures involved that can be damaged. This included the small spinal muscles, the larger back and abdominal muscles, and the stabilizers of the shoulder and pelvis. If you missed that post, check it out here for a more detailed look: Getting Down To The CORE: Understanding The Structure & Function. This post will specifically focus on the elements of safe and effective core training.
So, how do you train your core to prevent injuries and produce a strong foundation from which you can move massive weights? The simple answer to core training is consistency. Core activation is required in every workout: make it a part of your warm-up, and dedicate time to specific core training at the end of your workouts. Never exhaust your core before your training sessions – you’re just asking for spinal injuries. Your core is integral in maintaining proper posture and form in basically every single exercise that is worth doing – and even some that aren’t worth doing!
By working the core and fatiguing the system before your larger lifts and exercises, there is more of a chance that your core will give out and your form and posture will falter. This consequently increases the risk of injuries. So warm up with core activation, train, and then work the core in the end. This gives you the activation to get the core muscles engaged, promotes a full-body, multi-joint based dynamic warm-up, and also creates time for specific and dedicated core training in your workout sessions. Keep your warm-up light though (relative to your own abilities); if you push too hard and tire out, you’ll be struggling to keep that tight bracing throughout your heavy lifts and this will again increase your risk of injury.
Core Training: Where Do I Start?
Here’s a quick video on a properly executed plank hold, perfect for helping build core strength and stability. The plank hold is also great for promoting a change in pelvic tilt – if that is something you also need to work on. Further, the isometric hold works towards increased muscle density, and allows you to progressively increase load by adding weight to your hips/back. This works great as a warm up, but even better as a finishing exercise to work your core at the end of a training session. You can also find this video in the exercise videos tab, and on our YouTube page.
Here’s another great core exercise to add to your workouts. This is a fantastic exercise to start with when working on maintaining core activation and proper pelvic posture, while moving the hip joint (squats, deadlifts, RDL’s, lunges, etc.). It promotes the activation of the abdominal wall and lower back stabilizers (multifidi, ESG), thus emphasizing stabilization of the pelvis during movement through the ball-and-socket hip joint. This is the ideal warm up exercise to get the core engaged prior to heavy workouts. This one is also available under the exercise videos tab and on the YouTube exercise database.
This is the third main core exercise that exceptionally promotes core activation and training. Again, similar to the stiffened bird-dog, it promotes the activation of the abdominal wall and lower back stabilizers during free hip joint movement. Therefore, this is a wonderful exercise to use for prepping for heavy lifts as well as specifically training and strengthening the core. Personally, it is my favorite go-to exercise when initially teaching core activation and pelvis stabilization to others. As with all of our exercises, this video can be found in the exercise videos tab and on the YouTube exercise database.
Start with these great exercises to ensure your core is strong, stable, and able to hold your pelvis in place during exercises. For more useful core workouts, check out the exercise videos tab on this website, or visit the YouTube page. Under each listed video, you will find written descriptions and key pointers that ensure a successfully completed exercise!
Finally, while specifically working on the core muscles and focusing on strengthening those with isolated exercises, core training is incomplete without working the major limb-moving muscle groups: glutes & hips, lats & shoulders. To refresh, a strong core stabilizes the axial skeleton so that the appendicular skeleton has a solid foundation to work off of. Therefore, core training must be supplemented by a strong and functional pelvic and shoulder girdle. So emphasizing gluteal training, back and shoulder training, and functional, compound, multi-joint exercises, all of which are ideal for rounding out an ideal core training program.