Core exercises: central to fitness


Think of your core muscles as central to physical fitness, the critical connection between your upper and lower body. No matter where motion starts, weak core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function. A weak core reduces power, while also undermining balance and stability. This means a strong core is not just relevant to folks focussed on fitness, but to everyone at every age; it can help prevent falls and injuries and pretty much underpins almost everything you do – even things you might not expect:

  • Sitting in a chair
  • Getting into the bath
  • Putting on your shoes

The debilitating and painful curse of lower back pain may be prevented by exercises that promote well-balanced, resilient core muscles. Lack of movement is a ‘core problem’; no wonder our cores grow weak and we end up seizing up!

What it takes to build the core

Compound movements – exercises that involve multiple joints and muscles – are vitally important and should be the foundation of any fitness routine. Why? Because not only do these exercises work the obvious muscles they relate to, they also contribute to developing the core.

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Rows
  • Presses
Never compromise on the core

I am constantly surprised by the number of people who haven’t a clue how to achieve a strong core. Take sit-ups; rather than develop true core strength, most people end up with their spine in a compromised position as they throw their efforts into developing rippling abs. Yet overtraining abdominal muscles while ignoring other core muscles can set you up for injuries and restrict broader fitness development.

Squatting, deadlifting and most compound movements help build the core because it must remain stable for the other muscles and joints to perform the movement optimally. Once you appreciate the biomechanics and the true role of the core, then it becomes clearer what else can help. The ‘plank’ is a great additional core builder, maintaining the neutrality of the spine, with stability being the key in assisting in the development of core strength.

Compound returns

Most people want their gym time to be as efficient as possible, so don’t waste it with poor and inefficient exercise routines. When it comes to the core, forget sit-ups. Focus on compound movements for better results and get the maximum return from your time in the gym:

  • Improved power, balance and stability
  • Better posture
  • All round fitness

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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