Monthly Archives: May 2017

What is the core? And where is it?

We hear the word a lot today – “Activate your core!”; “Core strengthening routine”; “Core blaster”. But do you really know what the core is or where it is? If you said “Abs” and pointed towards your tummy, you have it wrong!

To a lot of us “the core” is synonymous with the abdominal muscles or abs. But is that all the core is? Yes and no. Let me explain.

The core signifies the muscles of our body that form the basis of all movement i.e. the core of all movement. So, yes, the abs are a part of the core but, no, the core is not just about abs.

Major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) especially the longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

That is, muscles in the abdominal region, low back area, along the spine and, to a lesser degree, around the hips and shoulder. See the image below to understand better.

 core-muscles_phacctive.files_.wordpress_image

(Image – bephaactive.net)

We all know that all these muscles are used for different functions. But all these muscles come together for one common function – to stabilise. That is, these are the muscles that keep us erect and stable. If the muscles of your core didn’t work at all, you’d literally collapse and fall on the floor.

So, when you’re asked to activate your core on a move like the plank or the squat, the point is to activate ALL of these muscles, and not just your abs. Why? Because all these muscles come together to keep your body mobile, strong and safe. And why is that important? Because your body is one unit and everything needs to work for something to work.

Rarely do we do any activity that requires only one set of muscles and very rarely do we do anything that doesn’t utilise our core. And that’s exactly why it’s called “the core” – you need them for pretty much everything you do. Let’s say you’re doing a bicep curl. Obviously you are using the muscles of your upper arm (biceps) to curl the weight up. But what’s happening in the core region? Well, a lot actually – all the muscles of the core are actually working hard. Doing what? Keeping you standing and upright. As mentioned above, if the muscles of your core didn’t work at all, you’d literally collapse and fall on the floor.

Now let’s look at a move that is meant to train the core – the plank.

PLANKANATOMY

(I have no idea where this image is from or what it says, but it shows you what muscles are worked when you do a simple elbow plank)

What’s happening here? As you can see, there is no movement happening. If that’s true, why is it hard to hold that position for more than a couple of minutes? Because the muscles of your core are working really hard to keep you from falling on the floor. If you can activate all these muscles well, you can hold a plank for longer than someone who can only activate a few of these muscles. And by consistently working these muscles, you end up with a strong core that helps you in pretty much every human movement in life.

In summary,

  • The core is not just the abs but comprises of the following muscles.
  • Strengthening the core means strengthening all these muscles and that’s done by using compound moves that demand stability.

So, the next time you hear the word core, don’t think just abs. Think about your body from the knee till your shoulder. And don’t just think about them, work on actively using them during every second of the rep. This is hard, very hard. But if you can do this diligently you’ll end up with a super strong core, no back issues and, with good nutrition, a smoking hot body too.

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Weight loss – A continuous process

Most of us like breaking up our lives into days. We do this because of the 24 hour cycle we’re subject to. But our bodies don’t wait till the end of the day to tally up calories in and out and produce weight loss or gain. It happens instantly and constantly.

We are dynamic living beings. We consume and burn every moment. How much we weigh is basically a measure of how much we are. We are water, muscle, fat, bone and other tissue. Except water, all these other things live, do and die every moment. And water – it keeps things alive but it also goes in and out of our bodies and hence contributes to the weight fluctuation . The rough summation of this is what we call bodyweight and it will never be the same at any given moment.

Very frankly, you weigh more or less now than you did last year or last month or last week or yesterday or even the last second. Why? Because during every living moment our bodies are working to keep us alive and functioning. This is done by burning calories that are stored in the form of glycogen, fat or muscle. A good analogy here is that we are like cars that are always on. Even when idling (i.e when the car isn’t running but has the engine on), fuel is used because work needs to be done even just to keep things on (i.e to stay alive). The more work you make the car do (more speed, more distance etc) the more fuel you’ll use. Similarly the more work you do, the more energy your body will need.

If I have to say it all in one line – Everything you do either uses calories or adds calories.

And this addition or subtraction of calories (energy) makes us weigh more or less every moment of every day. So if you have any aesthetic goals whatsoever – fat loss, weight loss, muscle gain, toning, shaping, sculpting or whatever term you like to use to describe having less fat and more muscle – here is something that is very critical to your success –

Every little thing you do matters and it matters right away.

Every step, every bite, every rep, every minute of sleep, every bit of stress and every smile affects your results instantly. If you do equal amounts of positive and negative actions, then your progress will be zero, which is called maintenance. If you do more positive than negative, you will move ahead and if you do more negative than positive, you will fall behind. That’s the simple truth.

If you want to make a clean start, that’s great. But don’t wait for the next day, week or month. The next moment is as clean a slate as you need to make a positive change to your life.

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