you were to ask me which muscle group
in your entire body you could work to
get the greatest benefits in the shortest
amount of time, I would tell you without
hesitation, "the core." Strengthening
the core can realize tremendous benefits
to anyone regardless of his or her training
experience and can do so very quickly.
What is the core?
core, as it's known in strength training
circles, consists of all the muscles in
your abdominal and lower back areas. This
includes all the abdominal muscles (rectus
abdominus, internal and external obliques,
transverse abdominus and intercostals)
as well as the muscles associated with
the spine (the erector spinae group) and
the hip flexors (iliacus and psoas, collectively
known as the iliopsoas).
muscles all work in harmony to provide
stabilization for your body and to transfer
power from the legs to the upper body
and vice versa. The core muscles also
function to keep your insides in, where
And why is strengthening the core so important?
core muscles contribute to all kinds of
problems in the body, the most prevalent
of which is lower back pain. By strengthening
the muscles that help support the spine
and improve posture, you can dramatically
decrease the symptoms of lower back pain.
your spine as a column of soda cans stacked
one on top of the other. If you wanted
to keep that column standing up under
stress, what do you think would work better:
a "tenser" bandage (as is used
for wrapping injured ankles) or Scotch
tape? Sure the tape would keep the cans
together but the cans wouldn't receive
a whole lot support, would they?
you strengthen the muscles of the core,
you are in effect turning that Scotch
tape into a nice, tight "tenser"
bandage, increasing the amount of support
that your spine gets.
training also has the potential to greatly
improve sports performance. Watch a baseball
pitcher throw a pitch in slow motion.
The power of the throw starts at the legs,
gets transferred through the abdominal
area (a.k.a. the core) then ends up in
the arm where the ball is released. Imagine
how much speed and power would be lost
from that throw if the core muscles couldn't
efficiently transfer the force from the
legs to the throwing arm.
core is the one area of the body that
will always give you a great return on
So how do I train my core muscles?
that work the abdominals and the lower
back are the staples of core training.
Also, exercises that target the stabilization
and power-transfer duties of the core
muscles are very effective.
most basic abdominal training exercise
is the standard abdominal
I've got an exercise for you that blows
the standard crunch right out of the water.
The equipment required for this exercise:
one rolled-up towel.
exercise is known as the Abdominal Sit-Up.
It uses a sit-up-like movement but focuses
directly on the abdominal muscles rather
than the hip flexors (which a regular
sit-up does). It is also very safe for
your lower back. Another advantage it
has over the standard crunch is that it
targets the stretched (arched back) range
of motion of the abs, which is totally
missed in standard floor crunch.
How To Do Abdominal Sit-Ups:
on your back on the floor. Roll up a towel
or mat and slip it underneath your lower
back, just above the waistband (the size
of the towel affects your body position
during this movement - use a fairly large
knees should be bent about 90 degrees.
Keep your feet close together and knees
fairly wide apart. This prevents the hip
flexors from having a direct line of pull,
helping to minimize their involvement.
not anchor your feet or have someone hold
them down. This automatically activates
the hip flexors. You will get the most
out of this exercise by minimizing their
difficulty of this exercise depends on
where you hold your hands. The hardest
position is above your head at arms-length,
then beside your head, then across your
chest, then straight down between your
legs or at your sides. Start with the
easiest first then progress to the other
positions as you get stronger.
are now ready to begin.
your torso straight and stiff, start
the sit-up by tightening your
lower abs then lifting your upper
body off the floor.
you continue up, imagine trying to
push your face up against the
ceiling (think up, not around).
you reach about 25 to 30 degrees above
horizontal, hold there for a
second or two and squeeze your abs
your lower back in contact with the
towel at all times and always
maintain tension in the abs.
yourself down slowly and under control.
Do not just drop back to the
ground. The negative portion of this
exercise is extremely effective.
to adjust your arm position depending
on the strength of your abs
you can see in the pictures, the
towel should be placed in the
small of your back, just above
should rise up only about 30 degrees
from the floor, maintaining contact
with the towel at all times during
is critical to keeping the tension
on the abs and stress off the
your abs hard at the top of the
movement and hold for a few seconds
before lowering yourself slowly
Incline Abdominal Sit-Ups
you are a beginning trainer, this is a
good starting variation of the Abdominal
an incline sit-up board to a slight incline.
If you don't have an incline sit-up board,
you can use an adjustable incline bench,
a decline bench, a Step platform with
a riser under one of the ends or a flat
bench with something under one end. You
can even use a propped-up 2 x 6 board!
head should be on the higher end with
your feet placed on the floor.
execution is exactly the same. The only
difference is that the tension on the
abs is much less due to the greatly improved
leverage in this position, allowing even
people feel that their abs aren't strong
enough to do the exercise.
Lying Superman Raises
- An Exercise For The Lower Back
this exercise has a rather unique name,
it is an excellent strengthening exercise
for the lower back that you can do almost
To Do the Superman Exercise:
face down on the floor with your arms
stretched out directly overhead (like
Superman flying, hence the name).
your left arm and right leg into the air
at the same time, also raising your chest
slightly off the floor. Hold there for
a second and squeeze the muscles of your
lower back. Lower your limbs back to the
ground then raise your right arm and left
leg and hold for a second.
can push down with the hand that is on
the ground to help raise your other arm
and chest higher off the ground.
exercise, even though it only uses your
limbs as resistance, provides an excellent
way to strengthen the lower back muscles.
two exercises will give you a good place
to start with core training. You can begin
improving your core strength by doing
these exercises 3 times a week for 2 to
3 sets each.
core training a priority in your exercise
routine and you will rapidly reap the
benefits of having a stronger, more injury-proof
midsection and back.