By Mike Simone Men's Fitness
For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, we tapped celeb trainer, owner of JCore and Men's Fitness contributing fitness expert, Jay Cardiello for his insights into the most effective ways to training your core.
What kinds of injuries or problems arise if you have a weak core?
“Everything! And I can personally attest to it. While at the University of Arkansas competing for their National Championship Track and Field Team, I ended my career when I came down wrong in a Jump and cracked my tailbone and many discs. I now have half of my spin fused as a result on neglecting my posterior chain and training for aesthics."
What are the best exercises for training the core for aestetic purpose? How about athletic performance?
"I've got two great recommendations. First off, do your core exercises explosively. Science has shown that performing abdominal exercises at a fast tempo activates more muscle than doing them slowly. The reason: To speed your movement, your muscles have to generate higher amounts of force. Try it with a medicine ball slam. Grab a ball with both hands and in one move, raise it over your head, and slam the ball to the floor-like an axe chop.
Secondly, one of the great things to do to create symmetrical balance between your right and left sides is take a firm pillow, stand on it with one leg and do single leg squats, single leg toes touches or simply pull your non-supporting leg up to your navel and hold for 30 seconds. Try to simulate a sports movement like a golf or tennis swing. These are all a great way to engage your core.
What are the biggest mistakes that people make when 'core' training?
"So many individuals, (guy's especially) do not pay enough attention to posterior training and working on their spinal erectors and their lower lumbar region. We all like to look great on the beach or to be able to show off our shredded abdominal region? However, we need to focus on application and not so much on asethics.
A few interesting things to point out though: Researchers at the University of Virginia found that it takes 250,000 crunches to burn 1 pound of fat—that's 100 crunches a day for 7 years. The truth is that the best exercise for belly fat is simply changing your eating habits.
Did you know that studies have shown that shoulder presses on bench will work your abs, lower back and obliques more than performing them on a Swiss Ball? Why? You will be able to use heavier weights on a bench forcing your core to work harder!
And performing the "sit-up" movement actually can produce "Hunchback Posture" when done in high volume. Why? Hands behind the head, cause neck muscles to tighten-resulting in a forward tilt. This causes pressure on the lumbar spine. Instead, opt for Isometric Plank Exercises.
Is there a difference between your 'core' and 'abs'?
"Abs are just one part of the whole. Many gym goers do not realize that aesthetics are not important with everyday daily performance with the laymen or on the highest level with a professional. You don’t see an athlete dropping to the ground and performing a set of crunches. People have to realize that we're all athletes in life, and it's all about performance. Having a great set of ‘abs’ or the infamous six pack is a tremendous accomplishment. However, neglecting your lower lumber region can cause problems down the road.
How many exercises, sets and reps should I do for a great core workout?
“I don’t feel that there is one precise amount of repetitions or sets for strengthening your core. People have to think about their bodies as a ‘Complete Whole”. Engage your core with every protocol that you are performing. Whether it is Squats, the bench press, over head lifts or even body weight exercise…contract and squeeze. Think about this: You engage you core with every move in life outside of the gym, wouldn’t you want to train the way you play?