Core training involves working all aspects: the entire rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis and lower back muscles (aka erector spinae). This doesn’t mean doing 1,000 crunches and calling it a day. It’s way more complex than that.
Keep in mind, bigger compound movements such as squatting and deadlifting help to develop your overall core stability and strength as well. Honestly, if you’re not performing these types of movements, your core strength will suffer big time.
With that being said, directly working your core is just as important. I know a number of people who neglect core training because they squat and deadlift; they say they don’t need to directly work their core. Well, I disagree. Yes, training compound movements gives your core a good workout, but directly training obliques and erector spinae help to prevent injuries and imbalances.
Core training will improve your posture and balance. It will allow you to be more functional during your daily activities. Your core is involved in everything you do. Sitting down in a chair, standing up, bending over, etc. You have to be able to move functionally in all planes of movement to perform these daily activities. Having a strong core will allow you to perform regular physical activities better – reaching the top shelf for a bowl, swinging a baseball bat, going for a hike, all those types of things.
Many people sit for 8-9 hours a day, which is terrible for your core strength. You’re not actively engaging your core when you’re sitting. We need to remember that our core is our base of strength and our central power for the rest of our bodies. We cannot neglect it for 8-9 hours per day. Remember Jim’s 30/60 Rule!
For more aesthetic reasons, core training will obviously develop and detail that six-pack you’ve been wanting. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to who only train their core by doing different versions of crunches, thinking it will get them that defined midsection. Well, ladies, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know that getting your diet in check and losing body fat is the only true way to see your abs – doing a million crunches a day will only help to detail them, not cause them to show.
Here’s a good core workout I came up with that I sometimes tack onto a training day or an off/active recovery day:
Plank, 2 sets until you fail
Side Planks, 2 sets per side until you fail
Russian Twists (slow and controlled), 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Crunches, done explosively or weighted (hold plate behind head), 3 sets of 20 reps
Reverse Crunches, 3 sets of 15 reps
Back Hyperextensions, 3 sets of 15-20 reps
This is a pretty simple workout that hits all parts of your core. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Whatever you do, don’t forget the importance of training the midsection!