Core Conditioning

One of the concepts that create a lot of confusion in the strength and conditioning field is the difference between core conditioning and abdominal training. For many people, this is the same thing. However, most experts agree that there is a difference. Most of the influence in abdominal training comes from the bodybuilding field where the goal is to build hypertrophy and definition in the movers. Core conditioning is more about training the stabilizers, developing functional strength and establishing a proper sequence of muscle firing patterns in the entire abdominal area. In other words, training the abs for aesthetic purposes rather then training the abs for function and performance.

The main differences between traditional abdominal training and core conditioning are (a) the stabilization factor and (b) the training of the trunk musculature as a unit. Most bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts do an endless amount of trunk activities but do very little to teach the core how to stabilize during a movement. Traditional abdominal training does not target the transverse abdominis (deep abdominal muscle), which plays an important role in stabilizing the entire trunk.

Once the trunk is stable, one has to develop core strength. To improve performance, an athlete should seek the development of functional strength in the abdominal area. Functional strength can be defined as "usable strength". It is the type of strength that is required in order to be strong and stable while performing daily activities or athletic moves. To develop functional strength, you have to perform functional exercises. Developing strength through conventional abdominal isolation exercises will do very little to increase performance because they are developing "dysfunctional strength". To have functional abs, both prime movers and stabilizers must be trained together as a unit rather than in an isolated manner.

Core stability is the ability to contract the lower deep abdominal muscles to help support the trunk in dynamic and static positions, enhancing balance, stability, posture and movement efficiency. The erector spinae (low back muscle) and rectus abdominis ("six-pack") are movers while the transversus abdominis (deep core muscle) act as a "stabilizer". The internal and external obliques are primary movers, but can also act as stabilizers, depending on the movement. The central nervous system is not programmed to think in terms of isolated muscle function. It is programmed to integrate both movers and stabilizers in any movement.

The core is the body's centre of power. Regular conditioning of the core muscles is vital to prevent injuries, correcting posture and ensuring more efficient and functional movement patterns. A dysfunctional core will lead to dysfunctional movements.

In short, core stability will provide back support and will enhance the execution of all athletic moves.