A blueprint for CORE and Abdominal Work


One of the most misunderstood and poorly trained areas of the body are the muscles known collectively as the “CORE”.  Because CORE training is a complicated subject involving exercises that isolate muscle and exercises designed to integrate muscles with differing rep ranges and rest times, only a few points of CORE training will be covered in this blog.
Point 1: There are 29 muscles comprising the CORE, not just the upper abs or six pack.  These muscles run from the hip to the chest in the front and the hip to the shoulder in the back.  All of these muscles function to stabilize the spine and also may perform movement specific to that muscle.  The point is, it takes more than a crunch to complete your CORE training.
Point 2: If you are dedicating an entire training session to the CORE, exercise order is key.  In general, the order should be lower abs, deep abdominal tissue (TVA), obliques, then the upper abs.  Because of the mental focus and the greater “neural drive” required to work muscles like the lower ab, these exercises should be performed early in the workout.  Working them later will invite unwanted help from other muscles.  The upper abs are the easiest to activate and should be worked last.
Point 3: In CORE training as in ALL resistance training, spend time “activating” the desired muscle but performing slow, controlled, mentally focus movements.  The neuromuscular control of these muscles has to be reestablished first.  If this is ignored, muscle synergists (helper muscles) that are already over-used will be recruited to do the work.  Take time to “turn on” the desired CORE muscle to be used before increasing speed and resistance.
Point 4: Give your CORE muscles equal time, and give them rest.  ONLY working your upper abs to achieve a six pack will pull you forward into an uncomfortable and unsightly posture.  Work BOTH sides of the body, and give the same rest to the CORE musculature as you would give any other muscle of the body, it’s working for you all day long.
Hopefully these pointers will be helpful in your approach to CORE training.  More CORE training info to come.
Matt Pirtle, MA, CSCS
Emerge Fitness Training