The Best Way to Develop a Strong Core (No, It's Not Sit-ups)
Until a few years ago, fitness instructors and training experts alike swore by the efficiency of the sit-up, when it came to helping their clients develop a strong core. Planking, or planks, was almost unheard of. The trends have changed since, as research has proven that planks are a sure-fire way to slimming down one's waist and developing tight abdominal muscles. What happened in the meantime? Why are sit-ups and crunch no longer cutting it? These are the conclusions that the fitness world has reached in recent times:
- Sit-ups and crunches take a heavy toll on the back. As you may already know, sit-ups and crunches will have you round your upper back and push your spine, in a curved position, into the floor. Got a sore upper back after your workout? Now you know why. The other parts of the body that these moves involve are the hip flexor muscles. These muscles run all the way up your thigh to your lower back, or the lumbar area. In fact, they stop right at the lumbar vertebrae of your spine. It's not uncommon to experience lower back pain because of the pressure exerted on your lumbar area by these exercises.
- Planks work more muscles than sit-ups. Sit-ups are relatively efficient exercises for a small group of muscles, including your abdominals and your hip flexors. However, your core includes more than just those two groups. When doing planks, you are effectively recruiting all the muscles that make up your core. This highly balanced exercise works out muscles on the frontal, posterior, and lateral parts of your body. The key to a strong core is to pay equal attention to all the muscles it involves.
- Good core workouts should be part of daily life. Move. Go out and play sports. Hike with your friends. Take a walk in the park with your dog. Clean up your apartment. All these activities, some of them performed for leisure, others out of obligation, are essential to putting all your muscles to work at the same time. Isolating those muscles and firing them up might seem like a good idea at first, but it's definitely not as effective. With crunches and sit-ups, you're only focusing on a few groups of muscles. But when you lead an active life, you create patterns of movement that work out the whole complex of core muscles. A strong core is not just built at the gym, but also day in and day out.