5 Steps to a Healthy Core

Posted: March 3rd, 2015 | Expert Advice | No Comments

by Bret Smith CPT, B. A., B.S. | Move Strong Studio

I bet you are reading this thinking…”Great! Here are some new ab exercises!” Sorry to disappoint, but to lead you down the path of more boring explanations about “ab” and “plank” exercises would waste our time. Instead I would like to describe The 5 Core Principles of a Healthy Workout Routine. All clients here at Move Strong Studio go through a thorough assessment to help determine strengths and weakness, health history and past injury complications. Beyond the assessment we also check to see how well clients move in 3 planar motion consisting of front to back, side to side and rotationally. The data collected helps give us a place to begin as well as where we want to get to both for short term and long term goals.

Bret Smith CPT, B. A., B.S. | Move Strong Studio

Bret Smith CPT, B. A., B.S. | Move Strong Studio

The first core principle for all exercise routines begins with prehab. This practice is based on movements and patterns developed to help prevent injury. Much like exercises done post injury we apply these consistently and prior to all workout sessions. Prehab movements are very helpful for the hips and shoulders that include a lot of active muscles, bones, joints and connective tissue. This is a pro-active approach helping condition muscles and movements in healthy ranges of motion.

Principle number two is movement prep: big and small muscle movements concurrently performed in order to stimulate the neuromuscular connection, coordination and muscle firing. Movement prep supplants the old school “stretch first” philosophy that is now reserved for the regenerative phase, which I will cover in the last principle. The primary focus here is to mimic movements that will be performed during the workout and additionally raise the heart rate, increase blood flow and increase core temperature. Ultimately, movement prep will help improve the overall effect of the workout due to increasing mobility, flexibility and power output.

Elasticity is the third core principle, and much like rubber bands needing to stretch and bounce back, your muscles need this suppleness to store and release energy. Our bodies need to stay efficient and strong in the ability to stretch and release energy; this improves the mechanisms for which we use to move and to stimulate quick firing of muscle fibers. Elasticity training helps combat the effects of inactivity and as a protective mechanism to help you react quickly. We practice plyometric exercises to jump, hop, twist and dodge efficiently for good central nervous system activation.

Strength is where we get to the meat of the sandwich. What all the previous principles have led us to is being able to get the best out of our strength training. For clarity: strength training goes beyond simply lifting weights. Although a sound and healthy addition to a strength training program, we utilize this principle not only as a means of getting stronger, but losing body fat as well. By activating more muscle more often you create a metabolic need for more energy both during specific exercise as well as recovery. Balanced with proper nutrition intake your body can utilize stored body fat more effectively with a well-designed and effective strength training program. The main caveat with strength training is applying the most effective dose. Most people work far less than what they think when it comes to this principle. You need to continually challenge yourself when it comes to strength training. Lifting the same weight with same repetitions over and over is not going to get it done. Your body adapts fairly quickly and the need for adjusting to this phenomenon is ever present.

Lastly let’s address the final principle of regeneration. First and foremost: the need for cool down time combined with a stretch and relax protocol is highly effective post workout. This may include some active recovery or light movement work to help reduce heart rate, followed by an assisted stretch of the main muscle groups of the hips, shoulders and trunk. Beyond this, and just as important, is what is accomplished between workout sessions. Proper hydration of 2-3 L/day of water is clearly one area where we all can improve and after intense workout sessions is a necessity. In addition, 7-8 hours of quality sleep is where the magic of adaption occurs. Your body is able to regenerate and grow during this time, so stabilizing your sleep hours with consistent rest and rise times makes this process the most efficient. One area that is often overlooked in the regeneration phase is the mental adaptation. The combination of multiple workouts and daily life/work stressors can lead to burn out so having the right balance to help maintain the effectiveness is crucial. Other areas of regeneration include foam rolling, ice/heat therapy, massage and active isolation stretching. For the purposes of this article, I will just mention these as each has a role in the ability to help your body reach the fullest state of recovery.

Hopefully the deceptive title of this article got you reading and kept you interested in learning more about The 5 Core Principles of a Healthy Workout Routine. My objective here is to broaden the concepts of workout routines and introduce methods designed to elicit the best response to training stimuli. If you are going to put forth the effort toward quality exercise routines why not do it in the best possible way? I am confident these principles will not only help you get the most out of your workouts but will keep you practicing the best ways to consistently challenge your body.

Get training, eat right, and rest well!

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