Often when it comes to reviewing ones exercise program, a quick scan reveals a great deal of exercises focusing on training either the upper body or lower body.  More often than not, core based exercises are squeezed in at the end of the program as a bit of a filler for the program or only if there is enough time left at the end of the workout..  This is a little bit like the warm up and cool down or stretching/myofascial release component of workout, which is also often only added in if there is enough time.  When it comes to writing a program for an individual, whether they just want to get fit or are training for something specific, I always try to include and stress the importance of warm up, cool down and to incorporate a range of Core related exercises.

So why is it important to include some Core Conditioning into ones Exercise Program or Rehab Program?  The Core or trunk region, which connects the lower limb to the trunk and then the upper body to the trunk is important for not only maintaining stability in the body, but also mobility.  Power, Speed, Strength, Agility and the other Components of Fitness are all elements of training that require a functioning core in order to produce good results.  Without our trunk and core being strong and healthy, we do not have a good stable base to transfer force through the body from the lower limb up to the upper body.

Now there has been much written and said about training the core in the last 10 years or so.  There are many versions and meanings as to what the core is, how we should train the core, why we should train the core.  My definition of the core for today’s post relates to all those muscles in and around the trunk and pelvis region (abdominals (rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus), lower back erector spinae muscles, gluteal muscles, hip flexor muscles, quadratus lumborum muscle, pelvic floor and diaphragm.   I have included the associated hip and pelvis muscles as part of the Core because more often than not, individuals training on a regular basis or for those with various injuries, have very poor functioning muscles around the hip and pelvis.

When it comes to talking about Core Conditioning Exercises, again there will be much debate around what a core exercise is and how they are categorized.  Some people will say that core exercises are those that only train the core i.e. in an isolated manner, others will say that full body movements or multi-joint movements are core exercises.  The type of muscular contraction or focus of the exercise is another way to categorize core exercises, based on whether the focus is to concentrically shorten the muscle, eccentrically lengthen or to maintain the same length i.e. isometric contraction.  For the purpose of this post, I am going to make reference to all of these different methods, with the aim adding some from each category into ones exercise or rehab program.

Core Conditioning Exercises

Sit Ups & Variations – The focus is often on concentrically shortening the abdominal muscles, primarily the rectus abdominus, obliques and TA.  This is often an isolated approach.

Leg Raises/Bicycle Kick/Reverse Hanging Crunches – The focus is often on concentrically shortening the abdominal muscles, primarily the rectus abdominus, obliques and TA.  This is often an isolated approach.

Plank & Variations – The focus is on an isometric contraction (bracing) of the abdominal muscles.

Side Plank & Variations – The focus is on an isometric contraction (bracing) of the abdominal muscles

Superman/Birddog – The focus in on the posterior chain (lumbar erector spinae, gluteals, lats) and abdominals.

Standing or Kneeling Overhead Reaches (double arm, single arm) – The focus is on an eccentric lengthening of the abdominal muscles.

Wood Chops & Variations (Cables, Medicine Ball) – The focus is on an upright functional movement pattern that trains the abdominals and hip/pelvis muscles

Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Pushing Movement Exercises – Typically functional based movement patterns, training multi-joints and training the core in a variety of ways.

Integrating Equipment With Core – Ropes, Tyres, Sandbags, FreeForm Board, ViPR, TRX Rip Training – These are all great tools that can be used to add variety to the exercises above.

So, next time you are planning on getting a new program, writing a new program for yourself or someone else, be sure to take some time and think about what and how you can vary up your Core Conditioning Routine.  I would suggest that people add a variety of exercises into their routine so that the Core can be trained in a variety of ways.

For more information on Exercise Programs, Rehabilitation or Osteopathy, please check out www.principlefourosteopathy.com.  Osteopath Heath Williams is the owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy, one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics.  The clinic is located in the heart of the Meloburne City CBD near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St.  Appointments can be booked online at www.principlefourosteopathy.com or by calling 03 9670 9290.

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