TRAINING THE CORE
It’s easy enough in that it’s a relatively specific area to concentrate on. Also once you’ve found the area needed to focus on, you can still be training the core even while you are doing other exercises.
The benefits of a strong core is that it stabilises your trunk and so with the correct posture you are able to exercise with better technique and lift more weight with safety including leg exercises. To have the core working effectively your back MUST be straight. The core won’t turn on properly unless your back is straight and your head is in line with your back. Realise this because, when it comes to any kind of weight or resistance training, the core and posture go together.
The point being, you can just go on into the gym and lift weights and your overall performance may get to below average, or you can train your core, have the correct posture, and your performance may get to top notch. Bottom line… put in the effort.
There are quite a lot of exercises used for training the core. Some basics are…
ROLLOUTS. The rollouts can be performed with a rollout wheel or a lightweight bar with small plates. Knell down on a matt with your arms out in front holding the bar with hands about 100mm apart. Your back is straight and your head is in line with your back. Roll the bar forward pivoting on your knees and keeping your arms and back straight through the whole movement until your body is horizontal with the floor. Now roll the bar back to the start position once again keeping your back straight and head in line.
Throughout the whole movement you are using your core to hold your body straight. As a beginner you may not be able to go horizontal but keep practicing. Set a goal of 3 sets of 15 plus.
STRAIGHT PLANK. Face down on a matt up on your elbows and toes. Your whole body is straight with a very slight rise in your lower back. You will be using only your core to hold the position. Set a goal of 3 sets of 3 minutes plus.
QUADROPLEX. Face down on a matt and up on your knees and palms facing forward. Your back is straight and your head is in line with your back. Raise your right arm up horizontally ramrod straight and slightly out to the right. At the same time raise your left leg up perfectly horizontal and slightly out to the left. Hold that for a 2 count and lower. Do the same thing on the other side, that is, left arm up and right leg up. Set a goal of 3 sets of 15 plus
KNELLING ROLLOUTS. Knelling down behind a swiss ball place your palms down on top of the swiss ball and bring your feet off the floor so your knees become the pivot point. Roll the ball away from you until your chest drops. You should feel your core tighten. Continue to roll the ball away without straining your back. Hold for 2 seconds and return to the start. Set a goal of 3 sets of 12 plus
These will get you started. They will, done properly, help you to get the feel of the core working, especially the rollouts. However, there are a lot of other exercises useful to train the core. Performed 3 times a week alone with your other exercises it’s will make a noticeable difference in technique used in other areas of your workouts.
Mix them up a bit with your regular exercises. For instance, do a set of seated rows and then do a 3 minute plank. Or a set of bicep curls mixed with a set of rollouts.
It will be a tough but interesting workout and a break from the usual stuff week after week. Give it a shot.
Coming soon Training with your core. / Getting the best from your core
It’s the very core of your body where a bunch of muscles come together. The central point is 3 inches below your belly button and it’s from that central point that you control the ability to fully contract TARGETED muscles to safely lift free weights, and get optimum use of resistance machines. In other words, you lift with your core.
People say they know what and where it is. But the truth is, they wouldn’t know where it is if they fell over it. It’s generally thought, by the uneducated, to be the abs and although the abs are part of the core there are also the muscles as listed below.
TRANSVERSE ABDOMINUS (TVA) The deepest of the abdominal muscles, this core muscle lies under the obliques (muscles of the waist). It acts like a weight belt, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability.
MULTIFIDUS MUSCLE. The Multifidus muscle is a thin, yet stiff, core muscle deep inside the spine. It stabilises each joint, makes each vertebrae work more effectively, and reduces the degeneration of the joint structures.
EXTERNAL OBLIQUES. These core muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen, around your waist, and lie on top of the internal obliques.
INTERNAL OBLIQUES. These core muscles lay under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
RECTUS ABDOMINUS. It’s a long muscle that extends along the front of the abdomen. This is the ‘6 pack’ that becomes visible with reduced body fat.
ERECTOR SPINAE. The Erector Spinae is a collection of 3 core muscles along the neck to your lower back.
You might hear some mention of ‘other core muscles’ however it will simply be a reference to a ‘core’ or ‘primary’ muscle used in a particular movement like throwing a ball, or swinging a golf club, or doing a bicep curl where the bicep curl is the ‘core or primary muscle to lift’. But it’s the core muscles around the abdomen that have to be flexed first to give stability to your posture so you can focus on the bicep, as the primary muscle used in the exercise. So, target the Bicep but, target the Core first.
Because you lift with your core, and because it’s a group of muscles like any other, they require specific exercises in order to gain strength. So training your core muscles is absolutely essential if you are going to have workouts that will produce good results.
Remember the core always comes first. It provides stability to your upper and lower body muscles when exercising thereby transferring power to the target muscles.
Hence the term; ‘Lifting with your core’.
Coming soon TRAINING THE CORE
Given the number of gyms and individuals now entering the fitness industry it’s become more about the marketing and the money, than providing a quality personal service. Sure, there are plenty of people calling themselves ‘personal trainers’.
But what are they really doing, besides giving the client a whole variety of mostly ineffective exercises in an effort to try keeping their interest up, and in the process misleading the client into believing their trainer knows what he or she is doing.
It’s a bit of a harmless con really, unless of course, it’s detrimental to their health. But does the client know or care? In their ignorance probably neither. So where does that leave the client in terms of fitness and strength?
The reality is not a lot better off than when they started unless they have been with the same ‘trainer’ for some years in which case surely something must have been achieved.
The answer for people who are really keen to improve their health would be to use a TARGETED PERSONAL TRAINING method which has the benefit of training across the board for FITNESS, HEALTH, STRENGTH, MOBILITY and FLEXIBILTY.
This method is suitable for TARGETED TRAINING FOR ALL AGES AND ANY STATE OF HEALTH. It has very real benefits using an experienced trainer like PERSONALTRAINERAUCK.CO.NZ who can guide you through an exercise to increase your strength and, at the same time, focus on an increased range of motion and flexibility for optimum results.
Both Methodfitness.co.nz. and Personaltrainerauck.co.nz are based on AUCKLAND’S NORTH SHORE and are available in all areas from TAKAPUNA TO ALBANY.
Give it a shot. The assessment is free with no obligation to continue. Only good came come from it.
The answer to that would seem obvious however, if you take in to consideration age, body weight, purpose of training, sessions per week then your limit will vary according to which combination fits your physical make up, fitness level, and available time. And also assuming only changes to diet will be made, and supplements are restricted to vitamins and minerals.
Weight training limits usually begin with establishing a one rep max. This approach does make much sense as it doesn’t take in to consideration an individual fitness level and or endurance. It only demonstrates the degree of strength for 1 rep and so therefore it’s meaningless when it comes to setting a basis for weight training and or using weights to train for fitness as opposed to just strength. You’re not going to do a whole workout using a weight that is too heavy to do more than 1 rep.
It would be more accurate to set a limit by using a combination that includes both strength and fitness level and so instead of 1 rep max use a rep level of 8 rep max.
Begin with selecting a dumbbell of say 10kg. Do an 8 rep bicep curl and see how it goes. If it went without a problem then rest for 3 minutes and select a 12kg and repeat the process adding weight until you can’t quite achieve 8 reps and ensuring the technique is 100% correct right through to the last rep
From this you’ve established your maximum dumbbell weight for a one arm bicep curl. Now run through all the exercises in your program using the same method. Correct technique is essential otherwise the time is wasted and you’ll have to start again.
What you’ve now done is set up a base for your weight training exercises.
From here you can stay at that level or increase the weights and reps as strength and endurance permits. Increasing the reps will increase endurance faster than increasing the weights too quickly. When you have reached a good level of endurance (fitness) drop back to 8 reps and add more weight. Repeat the process until you feel you’ve reached your peak combination weight and endurance level.
From there drop back to your original weight and reps for a 2 week period allowing for an overall rest. Build up the weight again gradually making absolutely sure your technique can’t be faulted, so by the time you are back to where you last reached a peak, your strength will start to increase past that peak.
The ‘rest’ period is essentially a time to really make certain the technique is right because without that you can only go so far.
If it gets boring get on the bike, rowing machine, treadmill or cross trainer and hammer those in between weight sessions, but stick with the rest/technique method for long term results.
The One Arm Bent-Over Row is a back exercise targeting the Rhomboids, Middle Traps, and Lats.
To work the right hand side, place your left knee and hand on a flat bench. Place the opposite foot on the floor and slightly angled out and back far enough so your trunk is properly braced, your back is straight, and your head is in line with your back. Your trunk is roughly horizontal to the floor.
With your right hand bend at the waist and pick the dumbbell. Now suck in air ready for the lift.
Focus on the centre of your back, activate your core, and releasing air as you go, bring the dumbbell up beside your ribcage. At the top of the lift squeeze your shoulder blades together feeling the rhomboids, lats and the middle traps all working together to achieve a successful lift. Do 8-12 reps and change to the other side.
Remember to always suck in air at the bottom of the eccentric movement just before the concentric movement and then release fully during the concentric movement.
It’s a very useful exercise for increasing back strength and for promoting and maintaining good upper body posture.
Beginning with the standard narrow grip choose the Seated Row Double-D handle.
Posture comes first so ensure your back is straight and knees slightly bent. Lean forward, keep your back straight, and grasp the D-handle. Your knees will bend a little more to achieve this. Now pull the handle back so your back is in an upright position and your knees are slightly bent, and your arms are straight out but with the elbows slightly bent and your shoulders slightly forward.
Suck in some air, release it at the same time turn on your core and begin to pull the bar back. Now keeping your back straight bring the handle back so it is at chest height but your elbows and shoulders are down and back. Remember it’s a back exercise and with the close grip it’s the middle and lower traps, posterior delts, rhomboids and lats that are doing the work. Feel the squeeze in the centre of the back. By leaning back the upper traps can be worked but this will take some of the focus off the middle and lower traps. Drop the shoulders on the eccentric movement and squeeze the lats for maximum benefit.
To ensure full contraction right across your back focus on the centre of your back on both the concentric and eccentric movement. The target muscles to achieve this are the Rhomboids and Middle Traps which draw your scapula back. Both of these muscles are an important part of exercising for good posture.
For the wide grip seated row choose the 1200mm Lat Revolving Exercise Bar.
Basically, the wide grip is the same as the narrow grip except for the posture and it does put greater emphasis on the shoulders and upper back.
Lean forward and grasp the ends of the bar keeping your shoulders and upper arm as straight out as possible. Keeping your back straight bring the bar back with your shoulders and upper arms as straight out as possible until your posture is upright. Your back is now straight up and your head is in line with your back.
Suck in some air, release it and at the same time turn on your core and begin to pull the bar back with the focus on the middle traps, rhomboids, lats, and delts. Keep the bar at chest height, or slightly higher, throughout the movement. On both the concentric and eccentric phases maintain the same posture throughout.
Experiment with the two positions to determine which feels better but at the same time ensuring that the action you choose is going to result in a strong upright posture and power packed back.
This would have to be the best exercise for developing all three parts of your shoulders namely the anterior delts, the medial delts and the posterior delts.
Take note; A prerequisite for any lifting where your arms rise above the shoulders is rotator cuff exercises so unless you have already been working on these then put some effort in to your rotator cuff before getting too far with shoulder presses. And always remember to do a full set of basic stretches before any kind of lifting and that includes the legs.
Practice first with a 20kg Olympic bar, a lighter pre-loaded bar, or an aerobic bar. Extra plates can be added as you progress. Alternatively use a Smith Machine although, unfortunately, the Smith machine will not allow the bar to be directly over your head which is absolutely necessary to get the best result. If the bar does not travel up and over your head the rear delts will not contract as they should for this exercise. The medial delts will not get the full benefit either. Try using a rack to support the bar at chest level as this saves energy for the prime muscle group instead of using energy to get the bar up to your chest.
Beginning with a standing shoulder press pick up the bar standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Suck in air, tighten your core, and using your core, forearms and biceps, reverse curl the bar up to your chest. Relax and check your posture to ensure your back is straight and your head is in line with your back.
Begin the lift by simultaneously sucking in air and tightening the core. Then, keeping the core tight, and with a smooth motion press the bar up blowing out air to help keep the core tight throughout the lift. If your lungs remain full of air you will not be able to keep the core fully contracted throughout the lift. Always suck in air and tighten the core just before the lift and blow it out on the concentric movement.
The main muscles used to lift the bar are the delts and triceps. The line the bar will take is from your chest in a line straight up, then tilt your head slightly back to allow the bar to continue straight up and back finishing in a position directly over the centre of your head with your head in line with your back. This will ensure the load will centre over the medial delts with some of the load on the posterior and anterior delts. Your focus throughout the lift will be on the posterior and medial delts. The anterior delts will take more load at the start of the lift but also some throughout the lift. Be sure to follow this line to give an even balance of load over the three delts. About half way up the triceps will take 50% of the load. Hold at the top for 2 seconds.
If the bar is too far forward the anterior delts will take too much of the load and the posterior delts taking little or nothing.
Do 3-4 sets of these and then do 3-4 sets with the bar behind your head following the same method. Begin this by lifting the bar over and behind your head. When the press begins and the bar goes up tilt your head slightly forward and then back in line with your back. Remember, as the lift is completed the bar will be centred over your head.
Performed correctly this routine will develop a very strong and even balance of powerful muscle over the shoulders.
THE BARBELL BICEP CURL
Select a 10kg straight bar or pre-loaded 10kg bar. Either one will do to start. The 20kg Olympic bar would be too heavy for anybody to practise with. Start off without loading the bar with plates so you can warm up and practice the components of the lift. Pick the bar up and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent which sets up a postural platform to stabilize your upper body so mind/muscle focus can be solely on the core and biceps. Your back is straight and your head is up, and in line with your back. Your arms are fully extended.
Now focus on your next move.
Simultaneously tighten your core, suck in air, and begin to curl the bar. Feel the core doing the lift as well as the biceps. Curl the bar up using only your biceps and core to full contraction blowing out air evenly as you go and continuing to keep the core tight at the same time.
Now you are ready for the first full repetition.
Your posture has already been set. Remember your back is straight and head up and in line with your back. Slowly lower the bar focusing on using the biceps to control the movement. The time taken to fully extend will be a slow 2 second count. Now at almost full extension simultaneously suck in air hard, flex your core hard, and begin to contract your biceps ready for the lift up.
All focus is on the biceps and flexed core. Do not lift with your shoulders or break posture. The lift up is, again, a slow 2 second count. Bring the bar up using your biceps and core to full contraction and again, blowing out air evenly continuing to keep the core tight at the same time.
And don’t look in the mirror. You don’t need to see what’s going on if you really are focused on the lift. Individuals who look in the mirror to see if the right muscles are working are not focusing on the lift. If you want to make a ponce of yourself in front of the mirror do it after the set.
If your technique has been correct you will feel the effect on only the target muscles as you lift. Add plates to the bar only as your strength and skill in maintaining technique increases.
THE CABLE TRICEP PUSHDOWN.
With this exercise the resistance is down so keep an upright posture to create the platform for pushing down and don’t bend your knees as with the barbell curl.
Stand with an upright posture facing the cable machine with a short straight bar and an overhand grip. Your back is straight and your head is in line with your back. Some people let their heads go forward or lower their heads to look down when the load is over their limit. If you think this is going to make it any easier forget it. All this is going to do is lead to bad posture for this exercise. The power comes from the core, and having a natural upright posture with head in line with your back, is essential to core strength.
You are now ready for your first rep.
Your elbows are firm against your side and forearms are at 90 degrees (horizontal). Standing tall suck in air, tighten your core hard, focus on the triceps, and then with a smooth action push down blowing out air as you go. Remember the slow 2 second count. Squeeze at the bottom and hold for 2 seconds.
Ease the bar back up to the start with a 2 second count and when nearly to the top suck in air and tighten the core hard ready for the second rep. You can take the bar up a bit past 90 degrees however do not jerk it to start the movement otherwise the whole idea of the technique of muscle focus and posture will be lost. If you feel only the tricep working and nothing else then you’ve done good. Triceps are a small muscle group and work better with high reps so use as much resistance as you like so long as technique isn’t compromised but also look at a minimum of 12 to 15 reps.
Perfecting the Barbell Shoulder Press
If you haven’t done any or much weight training you could perhaps, and understandably, think there is only one way to approach it. If that’s the case, the theory would be, you can just pick up a weight and push it up over your head. Not so. There is a lot more to it than that and the thing is, with weight training you need to get it right as soon as possible before bad technique results in failure, disappointment, and the likelihood of injuries.
There are four basic components to any weight training lift with either free weights, machines, or just body weight. They are Posture, Focus, Core activation and Breathing. Although the four are all equally important the first in the sequence of preparing for the exercise or lift is posture. But remember each part of the sequence is just as important as the next.
The easiest way to describe good basic posture is to stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your back is straight, shoulders back and your head is in line with your back. There can be some minor variations with different exercises to create platforms within your body to lift from. Posture is a constant, so remember, your back is kept straight, shoulders back and your head is in line with your back, whether standing or lying.
It’s about thinking the lift through from posture to the lift, without being distracted by anything, and being able to focus on each part of the lift as the lift happens. And grimacing because you are not getting the full range of the lift is not helping. You’re grimacing because the weight is too heavy. Use less weight to regain focus and technique.
It’s what drives the lift. You lift with the core. Your core centre is situated about 75mm below your belly button and it’s where several muscle groups come together. Hence core. Core muscles include the Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Transverse Abdominus, Quadratus Lumborum, Multifidus, and Erector Spinae. Core training is specific and requires its own set of exercises but there is some overlap with surrounding muscles. However when you are activating the core during weight training this will in effect, help to keep the core muscles exercised.
The correct breathing technique during the lift is as equally important as the other three components. The sucking in of as much air as possible, and blowing it out, at the right time is crucial to getting oxygen to the muscles, plus being focused on full range of movement, plus using only the target muscles and of course, along with correct posture. The lift requires a lot of energy and getting plenty of oxygen to your muscles is very necessary. Remember, for the big lift, it’s a lot about sucking it in hard. And blowing it out hard.
Putting it into practice with a Barbell Bicep Curl and a Cable Tricep Pushdown.