Think Core Strength; Not Six Pack

Posted on 22-Sep-2016 by Kripa Jalan

You’d think that having a six-pack is the epitome of a strong core. Truth is, having washboard abs isn’t necessarily an indicator of real, brute core strength.

We see those “ripped dudes” at the gym or those ravishing fitness models on magazine covers and envy shows up. “ I want a flat stomach, “ I want toned legs, ” “How fast can I get my dream body.” Aesthetics becomes everything to us. Often in the midst of this craze, we tend to forget about the things that really matter. Strength, stability, and performance.

While there is nothing wrong with wanting or having a six pack, we might want to tweak our views. Let’s put it this way. You’ve got your 6 pack. Do you think your journey will end there? More often than not, it won’t. You’ll want an 8- pack. Then you’ll want the perfect V-cut. It’s an endless goal. Which is why we should probably start shifting focus from aesthetics to functional, to some degree. Once we start focusing on the latter, we start appreciating small wins. Running faster, lifting heavier, etc. It’s a step towards happiness.

What is the core?

It’s a group of interlinked muscles, within the trunk of the body that keeps the spine in place. The core is so much more than the obliques and abdominals.

What’s the purpose of the core?

More than the appearance, the purpose of the core is to support the spine and protect our internals. That’s why working towards a strong core is of extreme importance. We want to be fit for life, in and outside the gym. It forms the base for all functional movement, right from throwing a ball to performing a deadlift:

  • Help balance your lifts.
  • Improve posture.
  • Support other limbs.
  • Keep the spine intact.
  • Better running/lifting form.
  • Better stabilization.
  • Reduced risk of injury.
  • Strengthen upper body movements like pull-ups.

Just like having a six-pack doesn’t always indicate having a strong core, having a strong core doesn’t mean you have a six-pack. For the sole reason, it lies in your body fat percentage. You could have a rock solid core, but with high body fat percentage, the abs won’t pop.

How the core controls movement:

Your core provides functional movement across all three planes of motion:

  • The Sagittal Plane – Movements up and down along a straight line. Eg. Squats
  • The Coronal Plane – Front, back and lateral movements. Eg. Lunges
  • Transverse Plain – Movements that split the body into a top and bottom half. Eg. Jack Knifes

How do I build a strong core?

  1. Core exercises:
  • GHD’s
  • Holds: Plank, Hollow, Side Plank, L-sit
  • Back extensions
  • Good Mornings
  • Toes to bar
  • Russian Twists
  1. Compound movements:

These work multiple muscle groups at once. In the long run they also work towards tapering body fat.

  1. Thrusters, Deadlifts, Squats, Clean & Jerks
  2. Don’t overwork it: Your abs are muscles just like your biceps, so don’t work them two days in a row. Let them recover.

Will sit-ups give me a six-pack?

The short version: NO. At least not by itself.

A 6 pack is an outcome of nutrition and well-developed muscles. These are visible once a person’s body fat percentage becomes low enough.

The longer version: The crunches will build up the muscle under your fat, but the fact isn’t really going anywhere. You’ve heard this, abs are made in the kitchen. Damn straight. There’s no substitute for good nutrition. You could be working out 10 out of 24 hours a day, but with a crappy diet, you won’t have one ab to show for it. You can’t spot reduce fat. Your body is genetically inclined to storing fat in certain locations and when you lose weight it will come off in a specific pattern. For some it may be armed first, belly last. While for some, it may be the other way around. You need to reduce your overall body fat percentage.

What about athletes and fitness models?

As far as these guys/girls go, they eat well, spend endless hours training, they barely or never cheat on their diets, they don’t drink, they sleep well. Us on the other hand, do not do this for a living. We cheat on our diets, may miss a workout, don’t sleep enough and enjoy that glass of wine (or three) on the weekend. And that’s okay. We need to be happy and if these small hacks do just that, why give them up?

The Takeaway: A Strong Core Matters

Focus on performance. Focus on eating better. The body will just be a direct outcome of that.

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