Most of us have the wrong impression of ‘core training.’ With images of flat stomachs and chiseled abs plaguing the fitness industry, it often becomes a primary focus. Many incorrectly assume that training your core relates to focusing on your abdominal muscles.
I spent 23 years training my ‘core’ by doing different variations of Pilates. Unfortunately, it’s hard to look back at those 23 years with hindsight, and not think of them as a wasted opportunity. Pilates has some valuable aspects to it, but it simply wasn’t enough stimulus. It neglected some fundamental muscle structures that are just as important for posture and movement.
Core training has its place, as does Pilates, but it shouldn’t be the primary focus of your fitness. If so, it will be to the detriment of your end goal. Each part of your body doesn’t work in isolation, and therefore neither should your entire fitness program.
CORE, POSTURE, AND BACK STRENGTH
To improve my core, posture, and strengthen my back, I have refocused my training on developing my entire body for muscle balance. Not just the core. Due to the composition of our skeletal system, the spine is susceptible to anomalies in other parts of the body. The state of your legs affects your hips, which then affects your spine. The state of your neck, shoulders, chest, and back muscles also affect your spine and each other.
When exercising for strength and better body composition, training of the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, chest, torso, glutes, and legs, should always be performed. This applies even if you want to lose belly fat and develop your abs.
To ensure I’m training for optimal body composition, I start my workouts with full-body compound exercises. By the nature of their physical demands, they include substantial activation of the core muscles. My workout then progresses to exercises that work smaller, more isolated parts of my body. Focused core exercises are included as a supplementation exercise or as a finisher. As part of working my torso, I make sure the obliques get a good workout too.
It is the muscles that you don’t see in the mirror that most people neglect. Neglecting the major muscle regions of the upper back, shoulders, and glutes results in reduced mobility, posture, and movement. The glutes muscles are the powerhouse for movement and posture in the region around the hips and lower back. Most of us sit on our glutes all day and rarely use them, which is why in most people they are weak. Similarly, the back muscles anchor the upper body into the correct posture, and better upper body mobility requires shoulder strength.