Core muscles are more than just rockin' 10-pack abs. Your core protects your lower back from injury, and provides stability to the hips and shoulders.
Most people add a 90-second plank to the end of their gym session and think that they've made a difference - they haven't.
The core is a complex group of muscles with a complex function. It takes more than 90 seconds to have a good core session.
There are 4 major muscles in your core. In order of depth, they are:
External abdominal oblique. They give you the ridge on the side of the abdomen and modulate side-to-side movement of the spine.
Rectus abdominis. This is the 6-pack muscle. It flexes the spine forwards, and protects against over-extension of the spine.
Internal abdominal oblique. You can't see this muscle from the outside, but it has the same function as external abdominal oblique, but it is deeper and stronger.
Transverse abdominis. This is the strongest muscle of the core. It is the one that hurts when you hold a long plank. It stabilises the lower and mid-back.
If you want to strengthen your core and minimise low back injuries, you have to strengthen all 4 of these muscles. For practicality's sake, I group the muscles into 2 groups: Anterior abdominals (rectus abdominis & transverse abdominis), and Oblique abdominals (external abdominal oblique & internal abdominal oblique)
Moreover you have to strengthen them by using both dynamic and isometric exercises. Dynamic exercises are exercises are like crunches or sit-ups. They have a short concentric phase where the muscles will shorten as they contract, and a long eccentric phase where the muscles will lengthen under strain. Isometric exercises are exercises like planks. There is no movement, you just hold a stable contraction for a long period of time.
For a successful core-strengthening session, you have to hit all 4 major muscles of the core with both dynamic and isometric exercises. Here is an example:
Circuit 1: Dynamic Exercises (3 rounds)
Exercise 1 Crunches with weight plate for anterior abdominals
Exercise 2 Hip dips (on both sides) for oblique abdominals
Exercise 3 Elevated mountain-climbers for all 4 major muscles
Circuit 2: Isometric Exercises (3 rounds)
Exercise 1 Plank until fail for anterior abdominals
Exercise 2 Side-plank until fail (on both sides) for oblique abdominals
If you want more information on kcore strength, email me directly via the contact page. If you want specific information about your own injury or if you're after treatment for an injury, contact one of my clinics directly to make an appointment. Details of those clinics can be found here.
Dr Mitch Clark