Do you want to know the most effective strategy for core training? Do it from a standing position!
Let me ask you a question: how do you feel when you’re lying down? Does your energy go up or do you find yourself getting drowsy and ready to fall asleep? The chances lying down makes you calm and relaxed.
Did you know that when the body is lying horizontal that it’s a natural sedative actually reducing nervous system communication to the muscles? That’s because lying down is a signal that your body is at rest and getting ready to go to sleep.
Does this sound like the optimal environment for exercise? No, not at all!
Core training is an extremely popular exercise trend that can provide many benefits from improving aesthetic appearance to reducing low-back soreness. Any muscle which attaches the legs to the pelvis, the pelvis to the spine and rib cage or simply runs along the spine can be considered a muscle involved with either stabilizing or moving the core. There are a number of different ways to strengthen these muscles with the most effective exercises being ones that train the core muscles when the body is standing up in a vertical position. Lying down for core training does not fully engage the muscles of the hips, abdominals and low-back and can lead to muscles imbalances that could eventually cause injury.
It’s important to understand that the musculoskeletal structure of the human body is designed to operate most effectively when standing upright while reacting to the forces caused by gravity and ground reaction. The body is designed to function most efficiently while using gait, either walking or running, as the primary means of locomotion.
If we can understand how core muscles function during gait, then we can develop an understanding of how to strengthen them properly. During the gait cycle the pelvis rotates as each leg swings forward while the thoracic spine rotate in the opposite direction in reaction to the motion of the arms. When the right arm swings forward the left arms swings backwards causing the rib cage to rotate to the left on the thoracic spine. At the same time the left leg is swinging forward while the right is moving back into extension causing the pelvis to rotate to the right.
The muscles of the core are designed to facilitate these actions making them smooth and efficient. Based on its design the function of the core is to be the transmission of the body responsible for using forces created by gravity and ground reaction to create forward motion while walking. That’s right; the actual purpose of our core muscles is to work effectively and efficiently while the body is standing in an upright, vertical position.
If the trunk rotates over the pelvis when you walk does lying on the ground to do a typical crunch in a single plane of motion look like the most effective way to enhance core strength? Probably not.
Effective core training requires using exercises which integrate the hips, trunk and shoulders in order to efficiently distribute the forces (gravity, ground reaction and momentum) responsible for producing upright movement. Start your core strengthening workout using exercises like the high plank (first image) or glute bridge (see below) before progressing to standing exercises like the ones on this page.
If we truly want to train the core the way it is designed to work we need to get off of the floor and train the muscles from a standing position so they learn how to stabilize the body in a field of gravity. Standing up to integrate the muscles and improve their ability to produce multi-planar strength. Some of my favorite core exercises are featured here.