The Truth About Core Exercises

How to best work your core

by Landon Smith

Hello once again, my Alloy family! Now that we’re all eating better, supplementing with a multi vitamin and protein powder and loving contralateral exercises, let’s take some time to talk about a summer time favorite: core training!

Everyone wants that “six pack” look – or at least a defined mid-section – right in time for the lake, pool or beach. Unfortunately, and relatively naturally, most people immediately go to sit ups and crunches. After all, every gym-goer in every gym ever does them as part of their “abs and arms” workout day. I mean, come on… Rocky did them and he was super ripped! So, obviously, crunches=six pack abs…right?

The truth

I used to think crunches were the best until I did my first real plank. For what felt like the next month, my abs were so sore I could hardly pull myself out of bed. This opened my eyes to the fact that maybe training the whole core for FUNCTION and not ANATOMY is the best way to define the mid-section. The best thing about training the core in functional and purposeful patterns is that, not only will it help achieve the abs of Chris Hemsworth, but it can make you drastically more resistant to being injured.

Let’s get to the point!

The core is actually made up of a lot of muscles working together to preserve your spine and save it from injury. That’s right; not just your abdominals but also muscles such as your Multifidi and Erector Spinae make up this mystical core. Doing exercises that cause spinal flexion or extension, such as sit ups and crunches, can actually put excessive pressure and punishment on the facet joints and discs in the spine and, in fact, do very little to actually strengthen the muscles.

Three things lead to the spine being injured: excessive twisting or rotating, excessive extension, and excessive flexion both laterally and forward. So, if that is what the muscles are trying to resist, then it only makes sense to work them in a way that forces them to do just that. Those of you at Alloy have heard us say “anti-extension” and “anti-rotation” a hundred (or thousand) times before when we’re doing core work. Those patterns have been proven time and time again to be most effective in working and strengthening the core musculature. AND, THEY ARE ALSO THE SAFEST! Doing these types of exercises will strengthen your trunk and stave off future back injuries to allow you to enjoy all the activities you want for years to come.

At the end of every workout, people always ask, “when are we going to do core work?” The answer is, we’re always working on your core! Just about every exercise we do is working to strengthen your core as a whole. The more muscle groups involved in an exercise = more calories burned = burning fat = more definition in the core.

So, what did we learn? The sit ups and crunches actually put you at risk for back injury and the safest and most effecting way to train your core is through anti-rotational and anti-extension movements. Remember: everyone has washboard abs… some are just covered by a few loads of laundry.

Thanks for reading, let’s do it again soon!


Landon Smith is a personal trainer at Alloy Personal Training Center in Roswell, GA


We offer several options of personal training to meet every goal and fitness level

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