- All You Need to Know about the Core: Benefits (Part 1 of 4)
- All You Need to Know About the Core: 3 Foundation Exercises (Part 2 of 4)
- All You Need to Know about the Core: Putting it All Together (Part 3 of 4)
- All You Need to Know about the Core: Advanced Training (Part 4 of 4)
You have at least four options on when to work your core.
Which one you choose will vary depending on your overall fitness level and goals as well as your objectives for your standalone training session.
When to Train the Core
1. The Warm-Up
As part of your warm-up, core exercises may be integrated with dynamic flexibility work. Your warm-up should:
1) Elevate your body temperature
2) Prepare the specific muscle groups you will train during the work bout of your session or other activity.
Here’s where warming up with core work proves valuable: since you’ll need to engage your core to perform other exercises and activities, it makes sense to work the core at the start of your session.
So if you have an upper body workout planned, you can include some push-ups and maybe even planks in your warm-up. If you’re focusing on legs, start with bodyweight lunges and squats. If you’re preparing for a run or obstacle race, it may not hurt to throw in some squats, pushups, and lunges before tackling your event.
Overall, as part of your warm-up, when completing core exercises, your focus isn’t on mastery of the moves. These moves are simply done to prepare you for the rest of your workout.
Although warming-up with core exercises will help prepare you for activity, performing a couple core challenges at the end of the workout is also an option. Some of the typical core work included at the end of training sessions are ab exercises, bridges, and planks.
Including core exercises at the end of a workout is more common for advanced exercisers than beginners. As an advanced workout buff, doing core work at the end may help you focus on your weaker core links without having to sacrifice your energy and performance for the more intense work bout of your session.
If you’re a runner or obstacle athlete, stability ball bridges at the end of your workout can help you focus on your hamstrings and calves as well as your core.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to devote more time to focus on core training — most likely your entire workout, which leads us into the third option.
3. The Core Workout
As a beginner, in order to reap the benefits of a strong core, you’ll want to start your training by working on this anchor.
If it’s your first workout (ever), your first training session may consist of the basic and progression core exercises we covered in the previous two posts: drawing-in, bridges, planks, push-ups, squats, and lunges. You can also include basic strength exercises for major muscle groups like chest presses, rows, and shoulder presses. But you’ll want to master the basic core moves before progressing to more challenging core work as well as advanced training techniques for power and strength.
If you’re a veteran exerciser, there’s still benefit in devoting a complete training session to your core. Chances are, you’re already working your core if you’re going through power and metabolic training. But when you scale back from intensive training, be it through a lighter workout or active recovery week, you can include progressions and other modified versions of core exercises like push-ups with rotations, single leg squats, and lunges.
If you are a P90X graduate, you’ll have experienced a standalone core workout through the Core Synergistics DVD.
4. All of the Above
Regardless of your fitness level and athletic experience, it’s likely that you will include core exercises in each of the three scenarios listed above at various points of your training.
If you’re a beginner, you may be at option three for a few weeks or more. As a veteran, you’ll move back and forth from all three options, sometimes selecting all three for a single workout.
In spite of your fitness level and goals, the most important thing is to put in the time to train your core. Put it all together and you will see improvements in all other aspects of your training and activities.
© 2009-2015 Melissa Rodriguez
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