Core training has received ample attention lately due to a combination of reasons.
Some still believe in the myth of spot reducing. They feel that working the core muscles will help them lose fat in the same area. In truth, your body loses fat in a genetically determined manner. This occurs throughout the entire body in a near-uniform pattern. Areas with more fat, especially in the core for men and legs for women, take longer to fade since more fat resides there overall. Time spent unnecessarily on core work should instead involve intense, full-body, and functional exercise that boosts the metabolism.
Some feel that strong core muscles will prevent lower back pain. While this can help, improper exercise selection will do more harm than good. Any exercise that flexes and extends the spine can harm the lower back.
Some believe the core muscles have a mystical effect on overall strength and power. The true powerhouses of the body, the legs, have the greatest effect on whole body function. The core simply serves to transmit forces.
The Function of the Core
The core muscles exist to stabilize, not to move loads.
The powerful muscles of the upper and lower body responsible for movement only transfer force through the core. The core muscles prevent flexion, lateral flexion, extension, and rotation of the spine. They transmit power, contributing little to developing it and serve a support role for the body.
While standing, they function according to a serape effect. The criss-cross pattern of the core muscles allow them to prevent rotation. This prevention occurs as quick pulses of activity. Sprinting shows a normal activity that demonstrates this effect. Next time you run fast, feel your core tense up and relax with each step.
Training the Core
Stand up straight as if trying to touch your head against the ceiling. Keep your shoulders back and chest out. Keep your butt back as well. Relax the neck and look forward. This should all feel comfortable. If standing with a wall to your rear, you should be able to fit a flat hand in the space between the wall and your lower back. This represents good posture.
This also happens to be the position that best and most safely works the core muscles. Any exercise that challenges your ability to remain in this posture will serve as an excellent and safe option. This adheres to the length-tension relationship and prevents harmful forces from affecting your spine.
Basic motions such as pushing, pulling, squatting, and running already involve the core intensely. These exercises train all the major muscle groups throughout the body. Variety can motivate a trainee, but when focusing on strength, our bodies adapted to do simple, multi-joint actions.
Core movements, if necessary, should focus on endurance. Challenge your ability to maintain a center of gravity to best challenge the core. Sit-ups, crunches, side bends, twists, leg raises, pikes and any other movement can harm the spine. These also load the hip flexors, muscles designed for unloaded actions.
This can harm you due to shearing forces. Imagine trying to snap a pencil with your hands. This matches the effect your spine experiences during these movements. These choices certainly train the muscles, but also pose an unnecessary risk, associating with lower back problems when performed repetitively and with heavy loads.
Do not assume you are safe because you feel no discomfort and pain today. You are tolerating it, not adapting to it. Once again, prevent movement and avoid movement. Also, do not just prevent movement from any position; prevent it while holding good posture.
Core Training Likely Unneeded
Getting ripped abs has more to do with a proper diet than anything else. Training these muscles does not reveal them, only by losing excess fat covering the muscles do they become prominent. Eat fewer calories to lose weight.
Exercise intensely as well. Follow a simple routine that focuses on progression. Exercise will maintain or build muscle while you drop weight.
The basics already hit the core well.