The Benefits of Functional Core TrainingBy Fara Rosenzweig
The word “core” is thrown around in various ways in the fitness world. Some think the core is a sleek six pack, when in fact the abdominals are only a fraction of your core muscles. While core work does help produce toned abdominal muscles, core exercises include a lot more than just crunches.
Functional core training is about power, strength and stabilization. Core muscles create a solid base for your body, allowing you to stay upright and stand strong on your two feet.
Core work allows you to stabilize your spine, which improves and controls your posture. Functional core training allows you to practice movement that provides optimal motion for daily tasks. Challenging your core not only improves balance and functional movement, but it creates that toned look that so many people crave.
So what muscles are the core muscles? According to Ian Middleton, owner of Functional Training on the Net: “The core can be defined as the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex: there are 29 muscles that have attachments within this area.”
Basically, think of your core from your torso down to your hips. These muscles allow functional movement in any direction. Keep in mind these muscles protect your spine, therefore allowing you to have a stronger back. The following muscles are part of your core group:
You work more muscles with functional core training than crunches, and you work in a larger range of motion utilizing more muscles. In fact, if you’re trying to create that sleek look, stop crunching and try functional core exercises
What Are the Benefits of a Strong Core?
Work Multiple Muscles at Once
Reduce Back Pain
Besides the fact that you work multiple muscles at once to create a toned look, you are also strengthening your back.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Weak back means weak abs?” The phrase should say, “Weak back is a weak core,” because your core muscles are linked to your lower back. If you have back pain, it’s probably due to an unbalanced core. When you work on strengthening your core, your posture develops, creating a stronger lumbar curve and aligning your spine.
When your core is weak, your spine naturally curves. Think about people who sit all day hunched over in front of a computer or who drive for long periods of time. Your spine is compressed and curved in these positions, creating a great deal of stress on your back. When you add core exercises to your daily routine, you lengthen your core. Pressure from your spine is released.
In addition to reducing back pain and improving posture, you can also enhance your performance with functional core training. It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at—from daily tasks to athletic performance, your range of motion can improve and you can gain more agility.
You’re able to react quicker to movement. You can lift a heavy laundry basket or run up the stairs with ease. Your core uses many muscles to go through the motion of these dynamic movements. If a runner happens to step in a divot, he or she can react quickly and keep going. Functional core training also helps improve balance— your muscles remember that unbalanced sensation and react to balance you back and move forward.
Functional Core Exercises
Plank: Keep your hands under shoulders (or on forearms) and your feet straight out on the balls of your feet. Tighten your core; squeeze your gluteus, and hold. Start with 20 seconds. The more you practice this position, the longer you’ll be able to hold it.
Side Plank: Start in a plank position. Bring your right hand to the center of your chest (or move onto your forearm); slowly move your left hand up in the air, your body will follow. Your body is facing the left, feet are either stacked on top of each other or crossed side by side for support. Again, hold for 20 seconds and work your way up to a minute. Repeat on other side.
Push-Ups: Start in a plank position. Walk your hands out a little wider than your shoulders. Slowly lower and push back up to starting position.
Single Leg Squat: Stand on your right leg, bring left foot slightly off the ground and squat. You will not go very low. Keep your left leg up. Try 10 reps and switch to the other side.
Walking Lunges: Take a large step with your right leg, legs are wide apart—bend both legs. Make sure knees do not go over your toes. Push off with your left leg, bring it forward, and bend. Walk across a large room or shoot for 25 steps, turn around, and repeat.
Mountain Climbers: Start in a plank position. Bring your right knee to your nose and back. Bring your left to your nose and back. Speed up this motion for 30 seconds. Again, work your way up to a minute.
Squat Jumps: Start with feet hip width apart. Squat and use your gluteus, quads and hamstrings to push you off the ground and jump as high as you can. Repeat this motion for 30 seconds.
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