Why I Hate Core Strength

Ok, so I don’t actually hate core strength. In fact, it is the single most critical thing you can build to maintain joint health, strength and balance.

BUT, I hate it, and here’s why: it is the most incorrectly used term in the world of fitness. It the most incorrectly applied concept in the world of fitness. And to finish the rant, no one (very often trainers I’ve met) really knows what it is or what it actually does.

“Oh, we did core yesterday at X.”

I here this all the the time. Well, let me share something with you. I’ve seen quite a few of these “core” workouts and they are pretty interesting. It seems all the they do is “put strength on dysfunction” as Gray Cook puts it.

This is critical if you are trying to build a better structure and more strength.

In other words, you’ll be getting them better at sucking. They’ll get stronger without improving their fundamental movement patterns and eventually something’s gotta give; whether it’s the knees, the low back, or some other joint or body structure,” says Bret Contreras in his article “The Five Best Quotes Ever Uttered by Strength and Conditioning Coaches.”

So when I hear “we did core” I go through the roof. Most of the time this is done at a track jumping up and down on bleachers by people who can’t in and out of a chair correctly let alone do plyometric work. As you can tell THIS MAKES ME INSANE.

You’ve got people who look like they’re doing downward facing dog while doing planks. I’m talking the people whose form is so bad they’ve got bird  feathers on their butts because they’re so high. Let me share something with you, THIS ISN’T A CORE STRENGTH ENHANCER.

I also love the people who look like they’re playing twister as they full body wretch through a push up. Instead of putting their hands up on bench, fence, etc so they can do it correctly, they look like they are having a seizure. And no, doing them on your knees ISN’T better.

So what I’m is going to do, is educate you people to help you stay safe and avoid any nonsense anyone may try to subject you to in a large outdoor group setting.

So, what is core strength, and why do we need it to be stronger?
Core strength is your ability to stabilize joints, decelerate and produce force. That’s it. You would think something so simple would be pretty easy to understand let alone teach. Nope.

Here’s what WON’T build core strength:
Seated Machine Work
The Shake Weight
Lifting things filled with air
Essentially anything that doesn’t force your body to stabilize itself using multiple joints.

Here’s the key to improving core strength: increase your neuromuscular coordination (NC). If you can get your brain to “turn on” more muscle as your muscles move your bones, you will enhance your NC. The more muscle moving, the stronger you are. The stronger you are, the more power you WILL produce. The nervous system is the key to the whole thing, so program it correctly!

This is where convulsion pushups, inchworm shaped planks and bouncing your rib cage off of your thigh in a lunge is doesn’t make you stronger. This does nothing to build the proper neural patterning necessary to learn how to move better.

Actually, this will help you achieve something. It will destroy your joints, soft tissues, cause losses of flexibility and eventually send you to a doctor. So I guess it is good for something.

Alright, I’m off the soap box, MOMENTARILY. In part two of this literary soiree, I’ll show you what the core is, which muscles it entails and what they are actually supposed to do.


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Never attempt any new exercises mentioned in the VelowReviews blog without a thorough evaluation from a physician, personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or sports chiropractor.