Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire: Core Muscles; Their function in fitness and how to condition them

by Ron Kennedy • April 25, 2018
 Core muscles; It is still one of the most highly mentioned and emphasized muscle groups mentioned in the gym to date. Entire fitness training certifications have focus the science they teach around the label of this muscle group. If you have been in the gym at all in the last 10 years, or even a casual fitness enthusiast, there is no doubt you have become aware of the importance (if not the functionality) of these muscles.

Let’s start by defining what exactly the core is. When most of us think about a strong core, we picture 6-pack abs and getting there by doing 10 million sit-ups a day and having the perfect (albeit torturous) diet plan. But, the core muscles have little to do with the 6-pack abs on top and are deep muscles that make up the trunk of your body. They are responsible for protecting your vital organs as well as helping you perform day to day movements.

So, what is the significance?

Your core is your powerhouse, and center of your strength. A strong core helps you balance, allows you to sit or stand with perfect posture and improves your form in most exercises performed inside and out of the gym. Let’s breakdown exactly why this is important and how it impacts specific training areas:

Balance and Stability

Your core is involved in every fundamental movement that you do – reaching, bending, twisting and lifting. Even sneezing. The core muscles help you balance and stabilize as you move through your day. The stronger your core, the stronger your balance and stabilization. So, how can you tell if you have a weak core? Pay close attention as to how much you wobble during different exercise movements, especially ones that require balance. If you can perform most exercises with strong form and without falling over, feel proud, your core stability is the stuff of legends!

Performing some step-ups are one of the ways you can test your balance and core strength -here is how to perform them:

Find a stable chair, box or bench (the higher the piece of equipment, the harder the exercise).

Stand up straight just behind the box.

Keeping your chest up and back straight, lift one leg and place your foot firmly on the box.

Press through the leading foot and bring your other foot up onto the box so that you are standing on the box with both feet.

Take the leg you started with and lower it slowly to the ground again, keeping your back straight and chest up.

Return the other foot to the ground as well — repeat leading with the other side.

To really challenge yourself, add weights. First try holding dumbbells by your sides as you step up and down. To make the movement more advanced, try holding a weighted plate overhead.

Prevent back pain and poor posture

The muscles in your core surround the trunk of your body and support your spine. Since many of us lead inactive, sedentary lives, our core muscles weaken over time. This weakness, combined with slouching over a computer or phone, wreaks havoc on our posture and lower back.

If you spend a lot of your day sitting, be more conscious of your posture. Sit up straight and don’t slouch. A great way to work on this is by swapping your desk chair for an exercise ball. The instability of the ball forces your core to engage more to prevent you from falling off.

Improve weight-lifting at the gym

Having a solid foundation is the basis for success. When it comes to fitness – or movement in general – your core is that foundation. If your core is strong, you’ll have the ability to improve overall strength and lift heavier with better form.

 Always try and keep your core engaged throughout any movement. This makes sure that your core is fired up and working extra hard. To engage your core, tense your muscles as if you were about