Stabilize Your Core

We as trainers use the phrase, "stabilize your core", ad nauseam. If you've ever worked with a personal trainer or done an at-home workout DVD (or VHS if we're dating ourselves), then you know what I'm talking about. But what does that really mean? How do I whatever that is?

A common misconception is that the 'core' solely refers to your abs. Not so. The core, in its most general of definitions, refers to the body minus the legs and arms: including, the rectus abdominis (abs), external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, multifidus, and erector spinae. Some physiologists might throw a few extra muscles in that grouping depending on each professional's opinion.

Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. In other words, it does its job by holding the fort down and keeping all your pieces/parts safe while you swing your limbs around. Lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury, so the sooner you strengthen it, the better off you'll be doing your favorite sport or activity. Most people don't get hurt during their workout, they get hurt doing things that are typically routine as a result of not working out enough. 

 The following routine should only take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and requires only a stability ball (abbreviated SB) and your own resistance. Inside, outside, doesn't matter SO LONG AS YOU DO IT! 

  • Warmup     5 minutes     Light dynamic activity (i.e. trunk twists, knee hugs)

Exercise                                      Sets x Reps              Level I                                   Level A      
SB Wall Squats                                2 x 15-20          Hold a weight in close          Hold weight
SB Crunches                                    2 x 15-20           Only toes for balance          +Hold weight
SB Single-leg Reverse Crunch        2 x 15 each         Only place toe down          Anchor overhead
SB Hyperextension                          2 x 15-20            Hands behind head              +Hold 3 seconds
SB Lying Leg Curl                            2 x 15-20             Push hips higher on roll      +Single leg curl
SB Plank                                           2 x fatigue        Feet on ball, extend arms   +Scissor leg hold

Cool-down 5 minutes     Light movement (i.e. walking around, mix protein shake)
                                               Static stretching - optional, though encouraged - 2 x 30 sec

What's the deal with the levels? Well, I'm glad you asked...

They're intensity modifiers so that the workout can be adapted to varying skill/experience level. True beginners will work on the basic movements in the exercise column. When you're ready to take on more, try:
Level I = Initiating exercise (beginner) to intermediate (some recent or past exercise experience)
Level A = ACTIVE level for those looking to challenge themselves and push their boundaries                

*Those who feel they're in between Level I and Level A should create their own middle-ground exercise modifications as they make the transition between. This will be known as Level I-A

If you're starting out, try the above workout two to three times per week. If you already have a fitness routine, inserting this workout in once per week or a couple times per month will surely benefit you as well. By paying some additional attention to the core bench players, it'll be far more likely you stay in the starting lineup_