Why the quotes around the word “core”? I think most anyone can recognize the trends, flash, and hype that help sell certain ideas and training tools in the fitness industry. Well, the word “core” has become a word with many definitions and meanings. I like to keep things simple so my definition of the core is based on anatomical function and its purpose in the whole of the human movement system. Although there are many functions of the core area (hips and torso), its key role in movement is first to protect the spine and second to effectively transmit force to perform the upper and lower limb movements. That doesn’t sound very exciting but let’s put it another way: Focusing on enhancing core function and strength will allow you to move better, increase the amount of work you can accomplish, and reduce the risk of injury tremendously. This translates to more efficient weight-loss activities, being pain free during your sports training (running, tennis, fitness competitions, triathlons), and faster recovery from training.
This is why we are going to share a strategy for incorporating movements that will emphasize the core and its role in functional movement. It’s called asymmetrical, or one-sided, loading in which the body takes on either a one-sided stance, one-sided resistance load, or both in order to increase the demands of the core and its role in connecting the body in all three planes of motion and stabilizing uneven loads. When, in life or sport, are you perfectly loaded on both sides symmetrically in a perfect two-foot stance? Another great caveat to this is that we are emphasizing “core” stability and strength within a total body movement that transfers to its real function in many activities. This type of training should be implemented (and is most effective) after establishing a foundational strength base through your current strength training. Following that phase of training, you can integrate the asymmetrical training movements to enhance your strength training and provide some great challenges in your circuit training.
The following exercises each emphasize either lower body movement or upper body movement. Keep in mind that these movements are never isolated and incorporate total body work while then especially challenging “core” stability, movement sequencing, and strength. You can incorporate these movements individually as well as use the ones shown to create a great total body circuit with “core” emphasis.
Focus: One-sided upper body load during lower body movement challenges “core” to maintain vertical position.
Focus: Movement that emphasizes the cross-pattern connection through the core from one side of the upper body and the opposite side of lower body.
Focus: An asymmetrical lower body movement (lunge or split squat) loads one-side of the upper body.
Focus: An elevated surface challenges the single-arm load and movement of the upper body in a body weight movement.
As you can guess, any functional movement, daily living task, or sports movement involves the “core” and its ability to protect the spine and transfer forces across the body. With many of us forced to live a sedentary lifestyle, we can benefit our long-term plan of activity—and reduce risk of injury—by incorporating more movements that demand increased “core” strength and stability during our training regime. Final tip: Find a certified fitness professional to assist you in building a great base of strength for these challenging movements. If you already have a good strength foundation, go for it and I’ll see you in January to kick off the new year Austin Fit Magazine style!