Living life maybe the best core strength training you need - Be My Healer
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By Sophie Xie / March 15, 2016

Active lifestyle maybe the best core strength training your body need

core strength

Everyone heard about “abs’ or “core”. The possession of either one admits you as part of the fitness elite club.

The rave behind the “abs” or “core” domination in the fitness industry maybe based on the assumption, that those individuals who have weakness in “abs” or “core” are more at risk for sustain injuries and pain in our lower back. Thus strengthen these muscles will effectively prevent such injuries, allowing active people to enjoy more intense activities with more energy and less risk of pain and disability.

Does "strong core" or "six pack" prevent injuries?

What about those of you who are fitness “wannabees”? Is it safe to dive into some of the more popular “core” routines and challenges?

What is “core”?

core muscle in life

Technically, I consider the “core” as the collection of all the postural muscles which hold us vertical while we go about our business throughout the day. These muscles consist of the paraspinal muscles: the muscles along both side of our entire spine; the upper back muscles, the abdominal muscles, the glut muscles (the meat in your buns), and lastly quad and hamstrings.

The key ingredient that makes these muscles so amazing is their long lasting endurance. If you ever have to drag a drunk friend upstairs to their bedroom or apartment, you will have more appreciate of our postural muscles. If not for these muscles holding our basic structure in place every waking moment, our other muscles does not even have the basic platform to perform their individual functions. 

#Core muscles are like the operating system on computers, allowing other mobility muscles (software) to have the basic condition to perform.

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No matter the position you are in – sitting, standing, laying down, sometimes even during sleep, our core muscles are working. Their essential role makes them especially hard to relax, thus causing our most common body stiffness.

The piece of information that most of us are missing, is that: Core strength is a built in mechanism, just like your computer operating system. What that means is that

1. Your genes pre-determine the “personalities” of your muscles

2. Your core muscles are automatically adapted to the need of your lifestyle

Is Strong “core” muscle a good thing?

family fun

Indeed, it is a very good thing. For example, if you are a serious gamer, you would need own a high performance gaming console to maximize your experience. Strong core muscles allow those of us to be more active, adventurous, faster, more precise, responsive, agile and endurance, depends on your performance need.

However, “strong” is not the full story. Not all of us need to be athlete. Even if you are an athlete, active performance does not take over 100% of your physical need. As humans, (more like happy and comfortable humans), we also need to relax and repair, adjust and adapt, choose and comprise.

So, ask yourself, are your core muscles flexible? Muscle strength without flexibility makes us stiff. To prevent injuries, we need to be cooper wires, bend easily but not break easily.

Does your core muscle relax easily? Some people are born good relaxers. But you already know it if you are the opposite. Just like patient of insomnia, people who cannot rest their postural muscles are in pain and needs attention and treatment. 

Do your core muscles have proper activation? In other words, their all your core muscles do what they are supposed to do individually? For example, if you are sent to hospital, everybody there are equally essential to save your life. However, sticking to their own expertise and care for you in the proper order is also critical to the whole process. This concept is more important for those who are battling lower back pain and limitation in function.

In short, strong “core” is a good thing, just like “eat less calories than you use will result in weight loss”. It is a good simplification of a complex science.

What about “core” and lower back injuries?

I highly suggest core strengthening for preventing and recovery of lower back, pelvis and knee pain. Here are my opinions. They may surprise you.

  1. Start with core exercises that are right for your current condition and fitness level. Planks, squats and crunches are all wonderful exercises. However, diving into them from sedentary lifestyle often result in more, pain, frustration, injury and failed attempt. Gentle startup exercises such as pelvic tilt, bridging and clam shells are more gentle and easy to progress. If you have pain with any exercise, it is a definitive sign to stop right away. Strengthen is not the only way, and may not always be the right way to love your body at a given time.
  2. Strengthen your core in real life. If all you do is exercises in gym, your core strength is as good as practicing swimming on a desert. (Unless your life fulfillment is exercising core in gym). Plan your life and start living it is the best proven ways to get the core strength you need. In our profession, we call them functional activities, which is ten times better than isolated exercises. Each desired life activity affects our body uniquely, and also stimulate our mind in ways that we can’t even start to measure the benefits. Pain and injuries are meant to be transient events of our life. However, some of the reasons causing our pain to become chronic are due to our fear holding them back from fully recovery. It is called fear avoidance behavior.
  3. Understand our body type. Embrace your advantages and make peace with limitations. I was born a gummy. That means that I don’t gain strength as easily as majority of people. It also means that I am less vulnerable to acute sprains, cuz your break point may be my normal joint range. Some of you may be more bulky, but strength poorly. Some of you may walking for a full day and not feel a thing, but cannot handle a 10 sec sprint. Some of you have the built and power to dunk a basketball, but struggle to maintain energy through second half of the game. Thus, understanding yourself better will help you to pick the right battle.

Final Thoughts

Core muscle strength is definitely a good thing to improve our activity performance and prevent injuries. However, we need to look pass the noise of marketing and superficial selling point, and see the right fit for us each individual. After all, the goal for most of us is not to have more “core”, but through improve our physical stability to achieve the lifestyle we seek. And the important thing is to live your dream one day, and have your body whole and well there to enjoy it.

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