Abs and Core

Perfect abs is one of those things that is frustratingly in your face…am I right? It feels like that unattainable six pack, or perfectly flat abdomen covers your social news feed.  Super models flaunt their perfectly smooth, pooch-free midsection without shame all over magazine racks, social media and more.

If I’m being honest, even when I was in the best shape of my life and fit into my skinniest jeans, my abs never looked like that. I was always incredibly self-conscious about my middle and saw it as my biggest “problem” area….or was it?

What’s all this fuss over abs anyway?

The more I began to understand the importance of the core and how it affects almost everything we are physically able to do, I realized it was not about how it looked on the outside, but how it functioned on the inside.

About 3 years ago my husband transitioned from a job of doing hard physical labor everyday (which was hard on his body) to a job of sitting in his car for long hours and working at a desk (which brought on a whole new set of issues).  He started having terrible back pain on a regular basis. After purchasing different kinds of seat cushions, pillows and back supports to alleviate the pain, nothing seemed to work.

I suggested some simple core exercises, but like any self-respecting husband, he brushed it aside. Lets face it, when the wife makes a suggestion, its more like nagging, so he stubbornly ignored my prodding. So I called in reinforcements and hired a personal trainer at my gym (because my 15 years as a fitness instructor didn’t quite cut it). 

Can you guess the first thing he suggested? Yep. Start with the CORE! Ha! It was tempting to immediately break out the “I told you so” victory dance, but I chose to take the high road, knowing that any gloating on my part would just make him more resistant to his new routine. Within a couple of weeks he was feeling a significant difference in his back pain which allowed him to do other strengthening exercises more effectively. Now he is well aware of how these workouts impact his day to day life for the better.

So, WHY is this important? Because it all starts with the CORE!  The core is the support center of your body. A strong core can give you better balance, prevent injury, and even enhance other strengthening movements to make them more effective. A proper squat, lunge, dead lift, chest press, tricep extension (the list goes on) can each become more efficient with stronger more supportive core muscles.

Here are a few tips to starting a CORE ROUTINE  that might just change your life.

  • Proper Form – when doing a sit up, plank or any other type of abdominal workout, your form is everything.  Modified movements are much more effective when your body is set up correctly, versus doing a more advanced version incorrectly.
  • Do less, more often – If you are not pushing your abs to the extreme (like, sore for days kind of stuff), then you can do it more often.  Believe it or not, this builds core strength faster and is more manageable over time.
  • Put your mind behind your muscle – focus on your abs while you are doing core workouts.  This will focus your effort on those particular muscle fibers during the exercise and can help remove tension from areas that are compensating. For example, when doing a crunch people often experience tension in their neck, but if they put focused attention on the working muscles and proper form, it can alleviate that tension, and allow the movement to do its job.
  • Be more aware of your core throughout the day.  What are you abdominal muscles doing right now as you read this?  Are you sitting at a desk, standing in line or walking and chewing gum at the same time?  Conscious awareness of your core muscles during your daily activities can also help strengthen this super important muscle group.  Simply engage those muscles while sitting, walking, running, etc. This takes practice, but it can improve your posture and even your energy levels by keeping you more alert and less “sluggish.”

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