Training your body to perform life’s daily activities makes good functional sense. My approach to core training has always been based on what I see and know to be true. People spend most of their waking hours upright whether it be sitting, standing or moving about. Therefore, we should train our core muscles in a functional way.
Eighty five percent of working Canadians can expect to experience low back pain during their lifetime and with the growing rates of obesity and sedentary living the chances of developing low back pain continue to rise. Nowadays the new “COVID stay at home” reality may put you on the couch for an average of two additional hours of sitting a day. So core training becomes essential when it comes to training the human body for strength and function.
To keep our bodies prepared and ready to respond to life’s daily demands of pushing, pulling, lifting, leaning, twisting, sitting and standing, the core muscles must be turned on, tuned up and trained in a coordinated way to perform these desired movements on demand.
While we often train muscles in isolation and move the body in a specific manner to do so, (such as the abdominals in performing an abdominal crunch), your brain does not think in single muscles. Instead it thinks and operates our movements in patterns that require several muscles to act in harmony so that our spine is stabilized as it moves.
Each activity requires this coordinated effort by all the core muscles— the abdominals in front, around the sides of your torso and deep within, the back extensors that run up and down the spine on the back of your body, along with a number of other “inner” and “outer” unit muscles. Together this group of muscles make up the core-corset.
Note: check with your health care professional before starting any fitness program, especially if you have been inactive for a while.
Start with gentle movements to warm up and finish with stretches at the end. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds on one side and repeat on the other side or alternate side to side for 60 seconds. It’s not how many repetitions you do, but how well you perform each repetition for a set amount of time under tension.
Equipment—a resistance tube/band or towel, pair of dumbbells (3-5lbs) or 2 500ml water bottles
LEAN N’ LIFT
START Stand feet hip-width apart with a resistance band across your lap with light-moderate tension (by pulling band out and down against your thighs). Pull shoulders down away from the ears, shoulder blades together with abdominals pulled in and braced (tension felt).
ACTION As you slide one foot back (with your leg extended straight) breathe in and lean forward at the hips while maintaining neutral spine (straight back) and with tension on the band (pulling it apart). Progress by lifting the back leg off the ground, keeping it straight as you lift. Intensity furthers by lifting your arms up, keeping tension on the band. Pause and breathe in, lower back foot, then arms and return to start. Repeat with other leg for 1 repetition.
OPTION Lift either arms or the back leg (not both), use dumbbells instead.
LUNGE N’ PRESS
START Step your foot on the middle of a resistance band and hold both ends of the band in your hands. Step the foot with the band back into a stride position (feet hip-width apart). Anchor your hands at your hips with elbows back, chest lifted and abdominals braced.
ACTION Exhale and lunge forward (bend front knee), pushing your hands forward to extend arms out in front of your chest. Pause and breathe in. Slowly return to start position as you exhale. Repeat as directed. Switch sides and repeat.
OPTION Release one end of the band and place on the floor to reduce intensity.
START In a wide squat position hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with both elbows bent. Keep chest lifted and abdominals braced.
ACTION Lower one elbow down towards the hip as you bend sideways and exhale. Simultaneously push the opposite dumbbell straight overhead, pause and inhale. Return to start and repeat on other side for 1 repetition.
CROSS CRAWL CRUNCH
START With feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand and both arms extended overhead with abdominals braced and chest lifted.
ACTION Simultaneously lift one knee up (to hip level) and lower the opposite elbow down and across to meet the knee (rotating from the center of your chest), pulling abdominals in to bend forward through the trunk. Simultaneously, lower the knee (foot to ground) as you push the opposite dumbbell overhead. Repeat on the opposite side for 1 repetition.
OPTION Bend your elbows and lower dumbbells just above shoulders and perform the exercise (less intensity).
SQUAT N’ CHOP
START In a wide squat position, hold a resistance band overhead and stretched out so that there is mild-moderate tension on the band at all times. Keep your shoulders down, chest lifted and abdominals braced.
ACTION As you exhale, pull both arms down and across your body, twisting from the chest to perform a diagonal chop. Pause at the bottom. Inhale as you slowly return to start and repeat on the opposite side for 1 repetition.