Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Core Strength Matters

A recent New York Times article, Are Crunches Worth The Effort, cites a study published by Indiana State University this year, that found little correlation between robust core muscles and athleticism in healthy, young adults

I looked at the research and came up with some different questions and conclusions.

The “healthy, young adults” group was asked to squat, lunge, twist, crunch and hold a plank position, leap off the ground while tossing a medicine ball backwards over their head and sprint through a short obstacle course.

For those of us who wouldn’t necessarily be classified as 'young, healthy adults', who sit most of the day in the car on the way to our desk jobs and on the couch watch TV in the evenings, my questions are:

How many of us would have trouble completing the tasks set for these participants? 

And would there be a correlation between our (lack of) core strength and incidence of back pain?

But I haven’t done that study. Yet.

The article goes on to mention more studies, one of collegiate rowers, athletes who train and compete in their chosen sport at college level, and novice adult runner displaying weak core-strength; there is no definition of ‘novice runners’ here, they could be people who run occasionally without necessarily doing any other form of training; again this is my supposition.

The rowers added eight weeks of core training to their normal workout routines and the novice runners completed six weeks of core drills.

Result: the rowers had great looking abs (unsurprising for athletes with lower body fat than the rest of us) while the runners lowered their 5km run times significantly.

For me, there is no question of whether crunches are worth the effort however doing abdominal exercises correctly depends on how you move. Your core is a complex area and it is the muscle group responsible for keeping you upright, strong and stable as you move throughout your life. 

At MET Fitness you are taught to activate your core correctly and use specific movements to avoid neck recruitment, spinal bending & injury. 

If, like Thomas Nesser, associate professor of exercise science at Indiana State and senior author of this study, you’d prefer to forgo crunches altogether, do remember to heed his advice’ that, in most instances, “train for your sport, core strength will develop”. 

So pick a sport and get training!

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