Your “core muscles” are the center of attention in magazines, television, infomercials… it feels like everywhere really. All this attention is showered on how important it is to exercise them. Well, they are all wrong.
OK, now that I’ve got your attention I need to back-peddle a little. They are not completely wrong. There are 2 points that are missed in this mad rush to make the most of your money… uh, I mean core.
Gee, What Are Them There Core Muscles Anyway?
In case you are not clear on what is being talked about when the term “core muscles” is thrown about let’s run through the list. When talking about core muscles we are referring to the muscles found at the obliques, abdominals and lower back. These areas of the body are the ones that usually frame the posture of a person. Hence, a good posture reflects the good condition of these muscle areas.
Ok, back to the 2 points mentioned earlier in the program. The first is that somehow your core muscles are only your stomach. The second point is there is too much focus on only the core muscles you can see in the mirror.
Since when is your “core” one-sided? As previously stated the lower back is an important part of your core. Like many things in life there needs to be balance. Your core requires strength in the lower back as well as the stomach to maintain proper posture. Evidence is coming to light that lower back pain can be caused by many different muscles and not only a weak back as once believed.
Too many people with perfectly strong backs end up laid out in pain in spite of that strength. My personal experience falls in line with back pain not being from a weak back. My back pain improved dramatically once I got serious about getting my stomach strength up to par with my lower back. Please note that I got my stomach and lower back strength on equal footing. That balance is crucial.
The second point of overemphasis relates to the too many people pushing that you need to be working on your stomach to get that sexy fitness model look. It is so heavily preached that one can get the impression that it should be the focus of your exercise routine all the time. If you spend as much time working your abs as infomercials focus on them you will never have time to do anything else.
Concentrating on your stomach as much as the infomercials stress you will eventually fold in half. Alright, you won’t really fold in half but you can’t neglect your lower back and expect to skip through the rest of your life injury free either.
In addition, while the core is an integral part of your body it has a limit on how much strength can be gained. Once a certain level of strength is gained it can be easily maintained. Keep in mind your goals dictate your strength requirements. (Danger! Bad pun zone ahead.) Any more is wasted time.
Besides the most effective stomach exercise never talked about is the full range back squat. Yup, the very back squat that has been demonized in the popular media. You cannot crunch, twist or Swiss Ball Super Plank yourself to the same level of effectiveness. But that is an article for another day.
The take home lesson of this article is that while it is critical that you exercise your core you must do so properly and in a balanced manner. Balance must be kept by making sure you perform exercises for you lower back as well as the stomach. You also must look at your stomach training as one part of an overall exercise routine that emphasizes the whole body.