Austin family medicine core exercise situp anatomyThis is a quick guide for those who aren’t wild about getting down on the floor and grunting their way to a perfect core. This is an outlet for the person who is tired of feeling their spine mashed into the hard floor and then feels itchy after getting up off of the grass. You’ve read great lines like ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ but cannot seem to locate the right spices for an oblique omelet. If the ab wheel and the crunch master 3000 are collecting dust in your crawl space, then this article is for you. I’m not going to give you the secret recipe to wake up ripped like the magazine at the check-out, just some solid principles to help you understand how to get the core you want.

We need to understand how the core ACTUALLY works to take advantage of it. If take my cell phone and try to hammer a nail into the wall with it, not only will my cell phone hurt but I won’t get that nail into the wall. The cell phone wasn’t meant to help put a nail through wood, but being a lanky Polish boy I don’t know that and we all got hurt.

One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got that applies to a wide range of topics is how to understanding motive, or intent. It goes like this: A man comes into a hardware store and asks for a drill. You blast out 5000 reasons drill A is different than drill B and the customer gets flustered and leaves without buying anything. You didn’t understand that he doesn’t want a drill; he wants a hole in his wall. Actually, he doesn’t want a hole in his wall he wants to hang something. Actually, he doesn’t want to hang something, he wants to hang a picture of his family to remember the fun they had on their skiing trip this winter. If you were to only stop to understand his motive, you’d sell him the entire drill section.

The core is the same way. The core is a vague term that we use for the middle-ish part of our body. It is a fast twitch muscle. It is an intrinsic stabilizer of the spine and vital organs. Milliseconds before any gross movement the core is meant to fire to stabilize vital structures and then allow for a smooth transfer of energy and force from the upper body to the lower body. It is not meant to work in isolation. It is a postural muscle rather than a prime mover like the quads or glutes; meaning that as you’re sitting there now you’re working your core.

Here are a couple things you didn’t know about the core:

  1. When you speak your core fires.
  2. If you exhale hard like you’re blowing through a straw your core will fire off.
  3. The first thing that happens when you lift your arm out of a resting state is your core firing.

So having a simple base understanding of how the core, we can now design a program to utilize its intent. In understanding that its intent is mainly as a helper in force transfer and not essentially an isolated prime mover like your biceps we can get some serious returns in our program.

  1. Jumping- Don’t over think it. If we understand the core to be a transfer of energy, then a simple jumping program is ideal. Ideally we want specific high power, explosive jumps that force the body to use its max power output. This goes hand in hand with interval training. So if you want to get the most power output and force transfer through the core you do not really need to do more than 4 to 6 reps within your set. Taking a couple deeps breaths between jumps is perfect in order or maximize the next rep.
    • Bounding-With your feet flat, squat down a bit and explode forward as far as you can. Take a couple steps and repeat, each time trying to leap a bit further than your last. Many in the coaching field regard the bounding measurement an excellent marker of a programs worth. Is it better or worse than last time? Yes, or no? So simple.
    • Diagonal leaping-There is always some rotational component to movement so make sure we train our bodies as such. These are similar to bounding except I like a small item to jump over. The traditional object is a box, but as of late coaches are finding boxes jump out and their athlete’s shins. So keep it small, but really make sure you jump to clear it. Stand at one corner of the box and jump diagonally over it, take a couple steps backwards, breath deep and repeat in the opposite direction.
  2. Hill sprints- Find a local incline and make it your friend this spring. Really all you need is about 20 yards of grass and a little motivation. The big trick here is again like jumping, make sure you’re going all out up that hill, then walk down and rest until you feel you can blast out another one. No lie here, these will feel like the Dante’s 7th layer but the pay-off is just as huge. You’ll also be surprised at the short amount of time that it takes for your body to get used to them. If you can get in 10 by 20 yard hill sprints on your first outing you’re probably an Olympic decathlete, so don’t worry if after just one of these you’re ready to call it a day.

There are plenty of ways for you to tweak the program by adding or subtracting movements. There are a million different jump programs out there, they are simple and effective if you understand to that you need explosive movement each and every rep. Your core will love you and your back will thank you.