Abs of Steel and a Strong Core – a Personal Trainer Shows You How

Richmond Gym

We all want abs of steel and chiselled sides for that beach body we are all craving for. Some of us in the sports performance field want more than that. We are looking for a strong and powerful trunk. In this article we are breaking down core training into movement and anti-movement and the benefits of each.

Understanding the different uses and training methods of each is important for athlete performance and injury prevention.

Let’s begin by defining what both these terms mean. Spinal flexion is when you are bending the trunk forward. Examples include crunches and sit-ups. Spinal rotation is when you are rotating the trunk in the transverse plane with exercises such as Russian twists or woodchoppers. And lastly, core stability is defined as the ability to resist movement. Example exercises include planks and palloff presses. The first two are important terms to understand in terms of core strength and the latter refer to core stability. A personal trainer in Richmond can define the difference of each.

Richmond Gym
Richmond Gym

Building core strength and/or abdominal muscles require much of the trunk movement. The trunk needs to move forward (flexion) or in a rotation fashion. Exercise selection will mainly be determined based on the training level and experience of the individual. He/she can start with basic sit-ups. Once that has been mastered, they can progress to weighted sit-ups. This builds strength in the sagittal plane (direction of front and back). The individual can also target the obliques using movement of trunk rotation. By performing the Russian twist exercise, the individual develops strength in the transverse plane. Building strength in both planes is crucial for total core development. A personal trainer in Richmond Gym can prescribe proper exercises for core strength.

As mentioned above, core stability is the ability to resist movement. Selected exercises often challenge the upper and/or lower body while the individual keeps the trunk stable. An example is the plank. Gravity will pull the trunk down so the individual must resist gravity by pulling the trunk up. Now, core stability exercises does not mean it must be an isometric exercise. It simply means a resistive force is applied to attempt to move the trunk, upper or lower body and the will resist that force.

Both core strength and stability is crucial in the field of sports performance.

Athletes need to swap back and forth between the two depending on the task at hand. For an example, rotational core strength is important in rotation sports such as golf or tennis. Building this type of strength in the weight room will be directly transfer into game play. Another example is core stability for a wrestler. In order to be stable during a match, trunk stability is crucial; especially when the opponent is attempting to throw your upper body or sweep your legs. The number one reason we perform core training on athletes is not because we want a stronger core (that is reason number two), it is for injury prevention. Lower back and hips injury occur because of a weak core. Now, I understand that that term is thrown around a lot so I will explain it below. Take a sport with physical contact, let’s say hockey. When a player is pushed, parts of their body will move while other parts will remain still causing a twist or a translation in the body. This may ultimately lead to a hip injury or lower back pain. On the other hand, if a player’s core strength is adequate their entire body will resist the force the opposing player is applying and ultimately be as solid as a rock. This shows that core stability is critical during sports. A personal trainer in Richmond can prescribe proper core stability exercises.

So which should we train first? Which is more important? In my experience, core stability is more important and should be trained first. Safety of the athletes comes before any performance enhancements. Core stability and upper/lower stability training benefits the athlete by strengthening the attachment between joints. In the area of the trunk, it is strengthening the hip (sacro-iliac joint) joint and muscles surrounding the spine. Once proper stability has been established, core strengthening can begin.