August 4th, 2008 Posted by David Lemberg
Core fitness and core strengthening provide the cornerstones on which all fitness activities are based. Yet until a few year ago, core training was a well-kept secret known only to dancers and gymnasts, who were totally unaware the routines they’d been doing all their lives were about to go mainstream.
No one had been trying to keep core fitness a secret. Joseph Pilates had developed one formalized system of core training 100 years ago. But for the most part, the only people who had any interest in Pilates training were dancers who were trying to rehabilitate injuries. Other athletes trained with weights and did regular running routines to develop and maintain peak fitness. In the 1960s and 1970s, if you trained in a gym you went there to lift weights.
In the early 1980s the aerobics craze took over the fitness scene. “Get your heart rate up” was the new mantra. The cardiovascular focus was necessary ? arteriosclerosis, heart disease, and obesity were on the rise - but the types of aerobics activities being done were problematic. A wave of aerobics class-related injuries developed, with shin splints, metatarsal stress fractures, and blown-out rotator cuffs heading the list. High-impact aerobics turned out to be not the way to go.
Today – even though modified aerobics classes can be fun and provide a good cardiovascular boost – running, fast walking, cycling, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines are the standards for aerobic fitness.
So, all you need to do is lift weights and do aerobics and you’re good, right? Wrong. What’s missing - the key ingredient that makes all the difference - is strengthening the core.
The core is a group of flat muscles that lie deep within the body. You can’t see your core muscles. They include deep abdominal muscles; small muscles that rotate, tilt, and flex small groups of vertebras; and deep muscles that stabilize, flex, extend, and rotate your pelvis and hips.
Core muscles are just that - the core of your body. And like a nuclear core reactor, these muscles are the power plant that drives the activities of everything else that your body is doing. Core muscles - when trained and strong - provide a firm platform, a solid internal foundation, from which all movements and actions can flow gracefully and purposefully.
Your core muscles are your body’s center of physical activity. If you were a dancer or gymnast as a young person, you’ll remember being told to “work from your center”. Core strengthening and stabilization is a key component of all dance and gymnastics training. Dancers train every day to begin every movement from the center of the body. They know that all movement “starts from the center”. Every leg extension, every pointed foot, every sweeping arm motion originates from the trunk and pelvis.
In gymnastics, every back handspring, every balance beam dismount, every giant circle on the high bar originates from a powerful center. The explosive forces a gymnast generates to hurtle through the air begin with a strong, dynamic, powerful set of core muscles.
This once-exclusive knowledge of the power of the center is now well-known and wildly popular. And, the popularity of core strengthening is due to its critical importance, impact, and long-lasting value. The benefits of core training are profound -
- Injury rehabilitation
- Injury prevention
- Improved posture
- Improved circulation
- Improved balance and body awareness
- Improved overall strength and stamina
- Increased self-esteem