Unlocking Strength and Stability: The Core Training Hierarchy

by | Mar 17, 2024 | Uncategorized

What’s the one area nearly everyone would enjoy toning up? 

Men and women of all ages dream of having a leaner core free of stubborn body fat, so they try EVERYTHING.  


Sit ups and crunches.  

Belly wraps.  

Crash diets.  

And it just never seems to work! 


Because Average Joe’s and Jill’s only see the core as one muscle (the one that looks like a 6 pack on your fittest friends ;)) and don’t train to lean and define the ENTIRE core.  

Think of it like making a pizza and only prepping the crust.  

It can taste great, but doesn’t count as a fully made pizza because it’s missing the good stuff! 

Let’s start by understanding what actually makes up the core.


Core Anatomy


The core muscles are a group of muscles located in the trunk and pelvis region of the body. These muscles work together to provide stability, support, and movement for the spine, pelvis, and hips. Understanding the anatomy of the core is essential for effective training and injury prevention. Here are the key muscles that make up the core:


Rectus Abdominis: This is the most well-known core muscle and is commonly referred to as the “six-pack” muscle. It runs vertically along the front of the abdomen and is responsible for flexing the spine, such as during crunches.


Obliques: There are two sets of oblique muscles: the external obliques and the internal obliques. The external obliques are located on the sides of the abdomen, running diagonally from the lower ribs to the pelvis. They assist in rotating and bending the trunk. The internal obliques lie underneath the external obliques and work in conjunction with them to rotate and bend the trunk in the opposite direction.


Transverse Abdominis (TVA): This is the deepest abdominal muscle and wraps around the torso horizontally like a corset. It provides stability and compression to the abdomen, acting as a natural weight belt. The TVA is particularly important for core stability and spinal support.


Erector Spinae: These muscles run along the spine and include the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles. They play a crucial role in maintaining posture, extending the spine, and resisting flexion (forward bending).


Multifidus: These small muscles are located along the spine and provide stability by controlling movement between individual vertebrae. They help to support and protect the spine during bending, twisting, and lifting movements.


Quadratus Lumborum: This muscle is located on each side of the lower back, between the pelvis and the lowest rib. It assists in side bending of the trunk and hip hiking.


Pelvic Floor Muscles: These muscles form a hammock-like structure at the base of the pelvis and support the pelvic organs while also contributing to urinary and fecal continence. Strengthening the pelvic floor is important for core stability and overall pelvic health. 

(If you need help in this area, check out our friends Awake Pelvic Health & Wellness and mention Complete Performance!)


Hip Muscles: Muscles such as the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, as well as the hip flexors (iliopsoas), play a significant role in core stability and movement. They connect the pelvis to the legs and contribute to pelvic stability and alignment during various movements.


Effective core training involves targeting all of these muscles to ensure balanced strength, stability, and function throughout the trunk and pelvis. Incorporating a variety of exercises that engage the core from different angles and movement patterns can help develop a strong and resilient core.  But why does this matter? 


Why Is Core Training Important? 


Core training is crucial for fitness and fat loss for many reasons, but let’s cover the top 4: 


  1. Stabilization and Balance: A strong core provides the foundation for all movement. It stabilizes your spine and pelvis, which is essential for maintaining proper posture and balance during exercise and everyday activities. This stability allows you to perform exercises with better form, reducing the risk of injury and improving overall workout efficiency.


  1. Functional Movement: Many daily activities and fitness exercises require core strength and stability. Whether you’re lifting groceries, bending down to tie your shoes, or performing squats and deadlifts in the gym, a strong core is essential for proper movement mechanics and injury prevention.


  1. Improved Performance: A strong core enhances athletic performance across various sports and activities. It enables you to generate power and transfer force more effectively, leading to better performance in activities like running, jumping, and lifting weights. Additionally, a stable core can help you maintain optimal posture and alignment during sports-specific movements, leading to improved agility, speed, and coordination.


  1. Injury Prevention: Weak core muscles can lead to imbalances and compensations in movement patterns, increasing the risk of injury, particularly in the lower back and hips. By strengthening the core, you improve your body’s ability to absorb and distribute forces efficiently, reducing the strain on vulnerable areas and lowering the likelihood of overuse injuries or muscle imbalances.


Core training is essential for fitness and fat loss, and incorporating a variety of core exercises into your workout routine can help you achieve a stronger, leaner, and healthier body!


How to Train Your Core for Strength & Stability 


Foundation: Stability and Activation

  • Emphasize the importance of establishing a strong foundation before progressing to more advanced exercises.  This is where you prioritize FEELING your core muscles do the work you’re asking them to do! Focus on slow and controlled movements targeting each specific muscle of your core anatomy.  


Build a Base Strength

  • Emphasize proper form and technique to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness.  This is far more about endurance than strength, so your priority is to work up to longer sets that bring you to or near failure.  


Integration: Functional Movements

  • Once you’ve built a base strength, it’s time to integrate core training into functional movements and exercises spread throughout your training program.  These dynamic movements should start as bodyweight or lightly resisted exercises so your core can acclimate to supporting you in these movements.  


 Increasing Difficulty   

  • In this stage it’s time to progress core exercises over time and continue to challenge each muscle in your core.  This is where you can utilize more difficult core variations and pieces of equipment such as stability balls, resistance bands and weights. 


Mobility and Flexibility: Supporting Core Function

  • Core strength and stability cannot be supported without mobility and flexibility for the core and full body.  This stage is critical for improving quality of life and reduce risk of injury in your day to day life.  


Ready to dive into the Core Training Hierarchy and start building your strongest, leanest core? 


CLICK HERE to check out The Core Training Hierarchy: How to Build a Flatter, Leaner, Sexier Core

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