OK, so this blog could be controversial and is probably the opposite to your expectations from a Personal Trainer. I decided to write this because I often get asked: “can we do lots of core today? I want a flat stomach”.
The more I learn, the more I challenge and question things. One of these subjects has been training the core. And here are a few things that you might like to think about before making the decision of whether it is useful to you:
- Training your core doesn’t give you a flat tummy
Sorry, this is not what you wanted to hear, was it? If you want a flat tummy you need to reduce the amount of fat in your body. This is the moment you want to look at your nutrition and stress levels, reduce your junk food and increase your home cooked meals :). There is also work you can do on hormones if you are getting a bit older. In fact, we all know someone with a flat tummy that never does any exercise.
- How is your pelvis?
Every client I have screened has had some movement in their pelvis that would benefit from improving. And while the pelvis is not moving optimally core work can help ingrain those poor movements. And we want to get more efficient, don’t we, to get those personal bests? So if we are reinforcing a poor movement we are risking our performance.
Before we even walk on the gym floor I always check the pelvis, the back and tight areas (e.g. sciatic nerve) of my clients.
- Does core training really help with back pain?
There are definitely people who work hard on having a strong core that still have back pain. So if core training helps with back pain why do some people still have back pain? Often the pain is coming from another part of the body. Assuming it’s not a structural problem (that I can’t influence) my experience shows that correcting the movement throughout the body can already reduce the back pain that my clients are suffering from without even working with the core. In saying that some core exercises can still be useful for therapists.
- Core training for running
Did you know that running only works the core at 30% of maximum? This information really questions whether we need to be doing 5 minute planks and 100 sit ups to improve our running. This came from a study by Greg Lehman, that he discusses in this blog (I haven’t read all the articles/blogs he refers to). He found that doing exercises with big weights such as squats, deadlifts, push ups, pull ups, etc. is much more useful towards your running efficiency. That is really handy for me as right now I’m training more in the gym and hitting some great personal bests in recent years in squats and deadlifts. And I love lifting heavy weights! He adds some suggested exercises there that help train your core better for running than the traditional exercises that have been popular in recent years.
So the take home is to question yourself as to why you are doing core training. I am not telling you not to do it – just that you ask yourself: is it going to be useful for what your goals are?