Chances are if you have ever read a fitness magazine, looked at a strength training website or had a conversation with someone in the gym, then you probably have heard the term “core training” more than once. If you are a personal trainer, strength coach or athletic trainer, then you have surely had a client or athlete say to you, “I want to improve my core strength”. Unfortunately many people aren’t even sure exactly what the core is. When many fitness enthusiasts and athletes use this term, it is far too often used to describe only the abdominal muscles, but in reality your core is composed of the lower back, hips, glutes and, of course, the transverse abdominals, obliques and rectus abdominus.
Now that we have the terminology correct, let’s get down to the real question. Is core training necessary? The quick answer is that having a strong core is important for everyone and by everyone I mean everyone, athletes, non-athletes and even seniors. Core strength is important for balance, stability, preventing muscle imbalances, injury prevention and overall fitness.
The importance of core strength for athletes can be seen in a 2012 study conducted at Indiana State University which concluded that core strength has a significant effect on an athlete’s ability to create and transfer forces to the extremities. The study took twenty-five DI football players and had them perform a variety of medicine ball throws in static and dynamic positions (core strength). Then the athletes were tested for their one rep max on the bench press and squat, 40 yard dash and vertical jump (performance measures). After comparing the results, the examiners found several positive correlations between core strength and performance measures (Shinkle, Nesser, et al, 2012).
For most of us who fall in the non-athlete category, core strength is just as important for everyday life. Picking up heavy objects, daily twisting and turning, constant standing and even walking can all be improved by core training. One of the most important and often over looked benefits of a strong core is the positive effect on posture and back pain. Your abdominal muscles and muscles of the lower back have a direct effect on posture. Lower back pain is commonly associated with faulty posture, so by strengthening your core muscles, you can literally reduce or prevent back pain and that alone is reason enough to start doing some core training.
But what about seniors in the 65 and older category who aren’t heavy exercisers and may feel like core training is just a fad soon to be replaced by the next big thing. As previously stated, core strength is important for balance, stability and injury prevention and this is why core training should be important to older adults. Unfortunately, statistics say that every year one in three seniors age 65 and older will have a serious fall and these falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults (Center for Disease Control, 2013).
By strengthening the core muscles, seniors can improve balance and stability, just as their athletic counterparts, reducing the risk of a serious fall.
We now know what exactly core muscles are, who should train them and why they are important. All you need to do now to receive the benefits of a strong core is to start training. Here are some examples of common and effective core training exercises:
-Lying Windshield Wipers
-Planks, Side Planks, Weighted Planks
-Medicine Ball V-Sits and V-Twists
-Medicine Ball Throws (Forward, Backward and to the Side)
-Hanging and Lying Leg Raises
-Back Extensions, Good Mornings
-Barbell Squats, Dead Lifts, Overhead Barbell Press
-Olympic Lifts (Snatch, Cleans, and Jerks)
Center for Disease Control, (2013). Falls among older adults: an overview. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html
Shinkle, Nesser, et al, (2012). Effect of core strength on the measure of power in the
extremities. Journal of strength and conditioning research. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22228111