Developing a strong core is crucial for any fitness goal you have. Whether you are bodybuilding, powerlifting, or simply want to get healthy, you can’t achieve any of those goals without putting at least SOME focus on the core. It provides the foundation for everything else in your life. It isn’t just about building abs, but to maintain proper posture, minimize injury, and help transfer power from the bottom half to the top half of your body. It is what connects the body together to move seamlessly and safely.
A great place to start is on compound movements. A compound movement consists of exercises that hit multiple muscles at the same time through moving multiple joints at a time. It’s the most efficient way to pack on muscle overall, and strengthen your core. The core is used to keep the torso stable as you move heavier and heavier weight. It creates balance and stability.
Some examples of compound movements are bench press, overhead press, squat, and deadlift.
Core Focused Movements
There are movements more directly hitting the core that will help get it stronger and look better. We have our oblique, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominus. We want to make sure we are hitting all three in a given week to ensure proper balance.
Some examples include planks, woodchops, palloff press, crunches on the physioball, and a reverse crunch.
Posterior Chain Movements
This is such a crucial part of the core yet never associated with it. We always think of our abs when working out our core but remember our entire torso involves the core. We must view the torso as a cylinder, which means we can’t neglect all the muscles in the back that help with posture. We have all our low back muscles, and glutes.
One of the most common injuries is low back issues. This is due to either a weak core, and/or improper firing of the glutes resulting in overloading the low back. When we fire our glutes properly, unnecessary extra strain is taken off the low back.
Some examples include, bird dogs, hip bridges, hip thrusters, back extensions, froggers, and 90/90 pose. The deadlift and all variations (sumo deadlift, romanian deadlift) will all help greatly in strengthening our posterior chain. Most people notice after spending time on these movements that their posture improves quickly and they describe themselves as “standing taller and more aware”.
From an aesthetic standpoint, if you want a strong, good looking core, you can do all the ab workouts in the world, but only a proper diet will reveal what all the hard work has done. We can’t spot reduce fat in the stomach area. The body will pull fat from wherever it wants, and usually the stomach is the last place to go.
We don’t have to go crazy with tracking calories, and weighing our food. Stick to mostly whole foods. They are more satiating and leave you fuller longer allowing you to eat less food. Try to stay away from more processed foods, because they are never satiating and designed to make you OVER consume them which is what caused the belly fat to begin with.
Focus on adding more protein in each meal (about the width and thickness of your palm), and getting two fistfuls of veggies with each meal. Follow this advice, and you will start to notice your weight drop.
Lastly, but so often overlooked is consistency. All the advice up top is great, but if you aren’t sticking to it week after week, you may find yourself spinning your wheels. If it all seems overwhelming, start with the minimum effective dose to get you going. What is the LEAST amount of time/days you know you can 100% commit to? If it’s only 15 minutes, once a week start there. The goal is to not let it be a burden on your day, but a way to enhance your day. As it becomes more of a habit, you can start to add more if you’d like.