What is core training?

What is core training?

Find out more about core training and its many benefits.

Having first emerged in the US and other English-speaking countries in the early 2000s, this training method is becoming more and more popular. It has thousands of fans throughout the world of sport, including professionals such as the German football team, who use it to improve their performance. But it also has its fans among those of us who are a bit more sedentary – both beginners and intermediates.

But what exactly is core training?

Core training, also known as core stability, is all about strengthening the centre of your body.It involves doing exercises that work your functional muscles (the ones you use in your daily life). It rebalances your body and muscles and improves your posture. It can also help with your proprioception, as the training sessions use your balance to strengthen muscles such as the transversus abdominis. While everyone can benefit from a better quality of life with a strong, stable core, core training is particularly recommended for high-level athletes who want to improve their sports performances, and for everyday athletes like you and me who want to stave off back pain.

What are the core muscles and why should you train them?

Unlike weight training, which often works each muscle in isolation and focuses on building muscle in the "superficial" muscles (biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, etc.), core training works all of your core stability, or postural, muscles. This muscle chain (pelvic floor, abdominal wall, lumbar muscles, glutes, pelvic and hip muscles, flexors) located between your upper and lower body will hold you up better when it's more toned. The aim of core training therefore isn't to build muscle mass, but to improve your sports performance and energy in all of your activities, including your daily life.

How can you get a stronger body?

If you're a sportsperson, you'll recognise all sorts of actions and positions that you'd do in your sport. For basketballers and other team sports players, you can train with a Swiss ball to challenge your balance and make the exercises harder. For rowers, core training will be particularly useful because the cyclical movement that you do in the boat requires a strong core and uses the entire anterior and posterior muscle chain. For runners and footballers, the aim is to strengthen your muscles without gaining weight. Core training can help reduce the risk of suffering from pubalgia, for example.
If you've recently given birth or you're injured, you can do hypopressive core training exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and abdominals.

Try out the programme: 5 core training exercises.

The functional exercise that you'll do are: 

1- The plank, the swiss ball plank

Starting position: get onto all-fours, with your arms straight and your hands under your shoulders. Squeeze your abs so that your back is neutral (neither arched nor rounded).
The movement: extend your legs, without lifting your hips, so that you're resting on your hands and toes. Try to keep your head, hips and ankles perfectly aligned (in a diagonal line).
Number of reps: do 5 sets of 30 seconds holding the position. Each time you exhale, pull your belly button towards your spine to activate your deep muscles (transversus abdominis and pelvic floor muscles)

++ Try doing the plank with your feet on a Swiss ball to make it harder and work your core more.

2- The side plank

Starting position: lie on your side on the floor, resting on your elbow, forearm and feet (which should be together).
The movement: lift your hips off the ground so that your shoulders, hips and ankles are in a straight line. Try not to arch your back.
Number of reps: do 3 sets of 15 to 30 seconds holding the position.  Each time you exhale, pull your belly button towards your spine to activate your deep muscles (transversus abdominis and pelvic floor muscles).

++ Challenge yourself by lifting the leg that's on top. This will make it harder and work your obliques more.

What is core training?

3- The dynamic plank, the mountain climber with a suspension trainer

Get into either a plank or side plank position (see above) and do the exercise but with added leg or hip movements. E.g. in plank position, bring your knee to your chest, alternating legs. This is known as a mountain climber.

Number of reps: if you're doing side plank, raise and lower your hips for 10 to 15 reps.

++ Try doing your mountain climbers with your feet in a suspension trainer

What is core training?

4- The shoulder stand

Starting position: lie on the floor on your back, with your knees bent to 90° and your arms alongside your body.
The movement: lift your legs and bum towards the ceiling. To start with, you can use your hands to support your hips. Once you've found your balance, lay your arms back alongside your body. To hold the position, concentrate on squeezing your glutes and abs, and pointing your toes towards the ceiling.
Number of reps: do 5 sets of 15 to 30 seconds holding the position.

You should feel every muscle in your posterior chain working hard!

5- The glute bridge

Starting position: lie on your back with your knees bent and hip-width apart, the soles of your feet on the floor, and your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down.
The movement: raise your hips without moving your feet. Remember to contract your abs. Hold the position for 5 seconds, then release it and rest.
Number of reps: do 3 sets of 10 reps, exhaling as you raise your hips.

There are all sorts of exercises you can do as part of your core training: supermans, kettlebell walks, Russian twists, goblet squats, forward lunges, etc. And to vary your workouts and continue to stimulate your deep muscles, you can also add accessories such as a Swiss ball, straps, a balance board, a medicine ball, or a balance ball (available on our website). Let your imagination run wild! As they say, "work hard, play hard". Happy training!

What is core training?

Decathlon sport advice team

Sport, fitness, well-being: it's our pleasure to share our tips and advice with you.

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