The way Results Driven sees it, there are only three reasons to train your core:
You want your core to look ripped/lean/or whatever other word you use to describe it.
You want to strengthen your core to help improve your overall strength/performance. This would imply that you have identified your core as a weak link. Hopefully this was done with a reliable screen like the Functional Movement Screen.
You want to strengthen your core to feel better. Back, hip, knee, shoulder are all problems that can arise when your core stability is lacking.
If your main purpose is reason number 1, we have to break the news to you; YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE FAT! FACT! Anyone that tells you otherwise is probably trying to sell you a product that relies on psuedoscience (Read: BS). If you want to tone your midsection, you should be putting your energy into food journaling, food preparation, and full body resistance training. Here’s a quick exercise for you:
Step 1. Take out a notebook or open the notes app on your phone.
Step 2. Write down the last thing you ate or drank (other than water). Write down the approximate time and approximate amount.
Step 3. Give yourself a big high five because you just started a food journal. Keep up this habit and you’ll be on your way to a leaner midsection.
Back to core training…
Before we go any further, I want to make sure we all have the same understanding of what the core is. The core is essentially your entire body, except for your limbs, head and neck.
If you want to effectively strengthen your core, ensure you have adequate mobility at your hips and shoulders. The joint by joint theory, developed by Gray Cook and Mike Boyle, states that the joints in the body alternate between inherently mobile and inherently stable joints. When functioning optimally the joints from your hips to your shoulders should function as follows:
Hips – mobile
Lumbar spine (lower back) – stable
Thoracic spine (mid back) – mobile
Scapula (shoulder blades) – stable
Glenohumeral joint (where arm goes into shoulder socket) and neck – mobile
All joints have a balance of mobility and stability, but they should favor more to one side. Why does all this dorky nonsense matter when all I want to do is get mad ripped, bro?
(Side note – I am pretty sure nobody says “mad ripped, bro.”)
If you have lost mobility at your hips or shoulders, your low back will move too much (low back pain) and you mid back will tighten up. In other words, the whole system is thrown out of whack and your core training won’t be as effective.
So how do we solve this?
Step one – find out your movement profile. The Functional Movement Screen allows us to identify if you’re lacking mobility at the hips and shoulders, and allows us to identify any movement asymmetry or dysfunction. You can either contact a coach at Results Driven or find a certified professional by you by going to functionalmovement.com.
Step two – take steps to improve any mobility deficits.
Step three – repattern your static stability with less joints involved (in tall or half kneeling position)
Step four – bring all the pieces together through a full body drill.
We know this can be a bit overwhelming, so we don’t expect you to do this on your own. Below we have included some drills to improve hip mobility, spinal segmentation, shoulder mobility, static trunk stability, and dynamic trunk stability
Hip CARs – Hip mobility
Cat/Camel (Quad Spinal CARs) – spinal segmentation
Tall Kneel Halo – Static trunk stability and shoulder mobility
Walkout 2 – Dynamic trunk stability.
These exercises can be performed as a circuit and added to your strength training regimen. But remember why you are doing this (Reason 1, 2, or 3). If you are training your core to improve it’s appearance, make sure you are food journaling, preparing your own meals, and performing full body resistance training. If you are trying to strengthen your core, make sure you don’t forget to perform full body resistance training exercises which will help reach your ultimate goal of improving performance or reducing pain/discomfort.
Or you can just keep doing crunches and pray to see your abs.