Functional Fitness And The Core

In the world of fitness, we commonly talk about building our “core”. This term is used widely in all facets of the fitness world, and is as equally used by the every day Joe when describing the goals that they want to achieve. As a fitness professional, more times than not, one of our client’s top goals is to build their core strength, and it should be. But does the client really know what they mean when the say they want to develop their core strength? Let’s define the core muscles, why it is important to strengthen them, and what kinds of workouts will build core strength most effectively and safely.

Defining The Core

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I have often told my clients that the core includes more than just your abdominal muscles. The term “core” is commonly used synonymously with abdominals and that is mostly incorrect. The core comprises a group of muscles in the body that should be equally balanced and strong. These muscles are: the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominals, the obliques (all muscles of the abdominal group), the low back extensors, the glute muscles and the pelvic floor. Essentially, the core is just about everything except the extremities.

The “Why” In Core Training

Today we hear a lot about functional movement. There are a lot of fitness brands out there that bank on the method of functional training. There’s a reason why it is so popular. The days of going to the big box gym to lift dumbbells and jump on a treadmill are on the out. People are beginning to educate themselves a bit more these days and are more mindful of the types of workouts they choose to do. The wrong kind of workout cannot only be ineffective, but it can also be detrimental to your health and can be for the long term. That is scary! So let’s define functional movement in fitness and why it’s the epitome of core training. “Functional core training is about power, strength and stabilization. Functional core training allows you to practice movement that provides optimal motion for daily tasks.“ -active.com. Functional movement training will get you in shape fast, blast fat, and help your body move. This is because all functional training movements engage the core.

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Unfortunately there are a lot of functional fitness programs out there that are power-centric. Realistically, people need to sit at their desks with good posture and have their spines, arms and shoulders properly supported. They may need to be able to lift, carry and press 5–20 pounds (whether it is a baby, a dog, a large purse or bags of groceries). They may also need to be able to bend and pick up an item from the floor without putting undue pressure on the spinal disks. Being able to pick up 200 lbs. over the head is not a necessity for most people. It is not functional.

The Kinds Of Functional Workouts That Build Our Core Strength

Here are some of the many kinds of workouts out there that truly focus on functional training in it’s true, purposeful form:

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“PILATES philosophy extols continually challenging the body through an array of movements. As a student improves, he learns new exercises, thereby gaining a wider spectrum of movement. You can argue that this movement philosophy mimics functional fitness in a uniquely beneficial way because Pilates adds variety of movement rather than simply repeating multiple sets of the same exercise.” -ideafit.com

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TRX Training challenges the entire body in every plane of motion with versatile, scalable tools that anyone, anywhere can use to perform exercises that improve movement on the field or in life.” -TRXtraining.com

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“SURFSET® draws from “the real movements of surfing to create workouts that build balance, core strength, stability, agility, aerobic conditioning, power, lean muscle & coordination.” -Surfsetfitness.com

There are many boutique fitness studios and even big box gyms out there that are implementing functional fitness though private and small group training. Also, many personal trainers are FMS certified (Functional Movement Systems) and can train you based on its philosophy. This is the best and most relevant way to train! If you haven’t tried it yet, there are places like REV Pilates Gym who can get you started!