Why you should stop working out your core!
The core is meant for stabilization – particularly the lumbar spine. In real life functional movements, your core muscles will never use the movement pattern developed by crunches or sit ups. Realistically, what happens is that EVERY movement you do begins with a corresponding tightening of the core muscles to stabilize the movement and prevent injury and maximize efficient production of power. In the fitness world, this is most closely approximated by the plank and it’s endless variations utilizing bosu balls, exercise balls, etc…. Even the mighty plank, however, doesn’t mirror what your core REALLY needs. What the core actually needs is the type of work you already give it in your other exercises. Olympic lifting – how much core stabilization is required for a snatch or clean and jerk? Quite a bit. That cardio kickboxing class? Tons of core work. Zumba, gymnastics, yoga. They all work the core. What do they all have in common? They are all fitness styles that utilize complex movement patterns – treating muscles as part of a larger system that creates the movement, rather than isolating each individual muscle.
Muscle systems are much more relevant to fitness training than are the muscle isolation exercises. A complex movement involves most if not all of the muscle groups, forcing your body to use oxygen and to produce ATP (the basic molecule our muscles use for energy) more efficiently. Guess what also gets worked in a complex exercise? Your core. It has to stabilize throughout the entire movement. The obliques work unilaterally to prevent your body from bending sideways. Your quadratus lumborum and rectus abdominus work in tandem to keep you upright. Your transverse abdominus does the same thing as those belts the competitve weight lifters use – compressing the abdominal cavity to create a solid foundation from which the rest of the movement can arise.
What should you do, then? Stop doing crunches and leg lifts. Stop devoting 10 to 15 minutes of your workout time to your core. Start doing more dynamic movements, through a bigger range of motion, and let your core get it’s workout doing what it was made to do – stabilizing your body in motion.