What ‘core strength’ actually means and how you can build it

    19 July 2016

    Theresa May is an unlikely fitness celebrity but last week she was praised for ‘incredible core strength’ after a particularly deep curtsey to the Queen.

    May is no slob. She apparently has a personal trainer and goes to the gym several times a week. Does she really have a strong core? And what does that mean?

    The idea of your ‘core’ gets bandied around a lot these days. There are many different definitions. To keep things simple, here are two:

    — The rehabilitation/physical therapy profession understands the core as the cylinder of the body that makes up our trunk.
    — The sports performance sector regards the core as any long chain of muscles, from the feet all the way up to the hands, functioning systematically together.

    It is important to recognise that core strength plays a major role in the body’s ability to perform optimally and is crucial in helping us to be pain free.

    Training for core strength comes down to a variety of exercises. Below are a few examples that train our core for strength according to the two definitions.

    Your current fitness level should help determine where you need to start. If you are recovering from an injury it may be wise to begin with the rehabilitation exercises.

    If you are Theresa May, and you are faced with the task of carrying the nation on your back, then progressing through all of these exercises will be of great use.

    Performance — Exercises that require the body to connect chains of muscles when faced with the task of generating force against resistance.

    1. Squats
    2. Deadlifts
    3. Overhead presses
    4. Pull ups
    5. Kettlebell swings
    6. Turkish get ups
    7. Push ups

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    Rehabilitation — Exercises that focus directly on the muscles of the trunk.

    8. Planks
    9. Side planks
    10. Laying superman
    11. Swiss ball crunches
    12. Diaphragm breathing
    13. Medicine ball twists
    14. Bird dogs

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