Stop making these 3 core training errors and optimise your strength

Mar 17, 2021

 Core training isn’t just about achieving that flat, six-pack stomach or abs. It’s far more important than that!

Strong core muscles are vital to support your body and aid even the most common of everyday movements, from running and walking to sitting, bending and carrying the shopping. If your core muscles are weak it can lead to problems with the spine as well as other parts of the body such as the hips and shoulders.

But unfortunately, many of the things we’ve been taught are good to develop core strength can actually do more harm than good. And I’ve seen these problems affect people time and again.

What are the 3 fundamental errors people make when train their core?

It’s easy to make mistakes when training, but it’s important to learn what will and won’t benefit your body so that these errors can be kept to a minimum.

  1. Doing sit-ups and crunches

Just because once upon a time we were told that sit-ups and crunches were the thing to do if you wanted to strengthen your abdominals and core, doesn’t mean that’s the case now. Our understanding of what is going on with our muscles and the support systems inside our body has moved on exponentially since then.

In fact, crunches can definitely do more harm than good, even if done “correctly”.

The main problem is the way we are making the spine move, and its impact on the discs we have between each of our vertebrae. These discs in our spine are a cylindrical sort of shape with a fibrous wall around the outside and a compartment in the middle which is filled with a gel-like fluid.

When we do sit-ups or crunch, we flex and then we extend. Every time we flex the spine the front of the vertebrae come together and fluid gets pushed to the back. You can demonstrate this for yourself using a seed or a pip between your finger and thumb. Push down on the front and it gets pushed towards the back. And vice versa.

Of course our spine is designed to bend, but with regular repetition the fluid can start to migrate through the disc wall, creating a bulge. If this continues this can lead to nerve pain or even backpain.  

It’s not that those sit-ups or crunches, when done safely and carefully, will automatically lead to that outcome, but they can certainly increase the risk of this type of injury, particularly if you have a genetic predisposition or you have a tendency to work with weights.

  1. Not using your core in the way it is best used

Many core training exercises are designed to focus on isolating and strengthening one specific muscle, for example the transverse abdominis deep inside your abdominals. But even though you may be working this muscle, you’re not working it the way it is designed to work; you’re not doing anything to help improve the way it carries out its job.

By trying to activate one muscle that is within a compartment of many muscles, you’re effectively saying that this one muscle is going to do more for you than the whole group of muscles together. Watch the tutorial above for more of an explanation of this. if you just access one muscle you are not maintaining the integrity of the spine. What stabilises the spine is the bracing of the abdominals and the contraction of the lats as well as bringing the shoulders back and down to engage the rhomboids and traps too.

It’s only when you brace your spine, or lock it into place, that you can start to bring the big muscles of the hips and shoulders into play and help strengthen them, enabling them to do their job better. That’s how the core is designed to work. Ultimately, it’s far more effective to train as many muscles as you can all at one time, because then you’re training them to work together. And there are plenty of exercises that can help you do that.

  1. Training to exhaustion

One sure fire way to increase your chances of getting injured is to train until your body is exhausted. The no pain, no gain philosophy has a time and a place, but you need to think carefully about what it’s doing. When you become fatigued and perhaps shaky, you are more prone to losing posture and losing position which can increase the risk of a twinge or injury.

With core training, whether you’re focusing on something simple like a plank or a more complex exercise like the half-kneeling halo , you need to concentrate on training the position. Because the more you spend time practising the position and bracing your abdominals, the more you will be able to stay there as you get into the fatigue state.  

And this isn’t just relevant to gym or fitness studio work. This is about everyday movements too. If you reach exhaustion, when you go back to your everyday you will actually be more at risk of injury from activities like sitting in a car or at a desk for a long period or carrying heavy bags around.

 The types of exercises to focus on are the ones that maintain the posture of the spine, the ones that brace the abdominals and the ones that contract many muscles of the core, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You need to be able to train to an intensity where you can maintain the correct posture and the correct positions all the way through.

And that’s about training the mind and the brain so you can consciously think what’s my spine doing, what’s my core doing, am I tight and am I locked in in the right posture and the right position. And ultimately you want to get to the point where you are so practiced you can even do it when fatigued.

If you want to follow a core training program that avoids these errors and build your core strength and stability you can enrol in my How to Build Core Strength & Stability 12 Week Program, just click the following link


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