Sorry about the haphazard nature of the images in this blog. Still trying to get it right. Click on the pictures for descriptions of what the muscle does.
When I hear people talk about the core it is often followed by the word abs, flat stomach and 6 pack. I agree the core is responsible for giving someone a six pack, flattening the mid section and giving you “abs”. The mistake being made is the thought that training this area will make it leaner and more appealing to the eye. This is the primary reason people train it so much. If you walk into your nearest gym you will see numerous people doing hundreds of crunches. Whether it be on a ball, mat or even a machine built to help “isolate” the rectus abdominus the core gets a lack of attention.
When I talk about the core I am talking about the bond between the upper and lower body. I am talking about the strongest link of a sometimes fragile chain.If you were to look at the body from all angles, remove the legs from 10 inches below the hip joint and look at the mid section from there up to the sternum, that would be the core in my estimation. That’s a lot of muscle. It includes not just the 6 pack muscle but everything that lays under it and around it. I have inserted some pictures to give you an idea of the muscles involved in this complex system. When you see them you will realize that crunches are not nearly enough. You will also see that they are involved in every movement you do whether it is lifting, throwing or walking.
When you see the complexity of this structure you realize that it is not just abdominals that you are training but also the muscles of the mid to lower back, the side of your body, the upper hip muscles and the deep tissues below the superficial (top) layer. If you intend on training your midsection correctly, all of these tissues must be stimulated equally. It’s a tough task to do and I don’t think anyone has got it right yet. But the challenge is what makes it fun.
I hope you also see the importance of your core as a link between the upper and lower body. It is THE most important body part to train. Without a strong link in this area you are seriously limiting what the upper and lower body can do.
So next time you think about training abs at the end of your workout, think again. Train for core on its own day, use exercises that will hit the core from as many different angles as possible and try your absolute best not to do a crunch. Feel free to do sit ups, leg raises, chopping exercises, postural exercises like the plank, piking movements, lunging, and rotating movements but please, please, please leave the crunches alone! Unless it is the last exercise you do.