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Mark Munoz
Everyday, we are inundated with information from “experts” in the media regarding the best ways to “train your core.” Exactly what does that mean? Does it apply to the MMA fighter? How about the average fitness conscious recreational athlete?

Before getting started, let’s get some clarification on the anatomy. To begin with, the area between your shoulders and hips is not known as the “core.” This label has been erroneously placed by people in the industry who have unfortunately fallen victim to late night TV infomercials. In exercise physiology, this part of the body is known as the trunk. In the field of strength and conditioning, saying something is a “core” lift actually means it is a foundational lift, such as the squat, clean, deadlift, etc. These multijoint and complex movements form the “core” of most performance training regimens, hence the term “core exercises.”

So many movements in sports and everyday life involve the use of the trunk. This includes the ability to transfer power from the legs to the arms, overall body stability, and rotational strength. You would not be able to throw a punch, kick a ball, pick your child up out of the car seat, or dance at a night club without it. In fact, you can’t even maintain something as simple as proper posture without a good, solid trunk.

Developing the trunk can be very beneficial to every day functions, as well as athletic performance.  Right off the start, though, let’s get this straight: abs alone do not the trunk make! The rectus abdominis (known more commonly as the abdominals) actually only make up a percentage of the area, and are not that important in sports performance. Mostly, they help with what is called trunk flexion, or sitting up. They also help prevent trunk hyperextension, that is the over stretching of the trunk. Other than that, their role is limited.

So, what should you train, and how should you do it? Below is a list of some of themajor players in utilizing the trunk to improve overall performance:

  • The quadratus lumborum
  • The multifidus muscles
  • The inner and outer obliques
  • The spinal erectors
  • Even the hip rotators, the gluteals and hamstrings muscles
  • Probably the most important, however, is the transverse abdominis. It is nature’s weight belt and is the major support for the back and overall trunk strength and stability. Strengthening it will also help keep the stomach pulled in.

Exercise suggestions: 

  • Vacuum
  • Planks (all sides)
  • Landmines
  • Resisted trunk rotations (i.e. wood chops)
  • Rotational medicine ball throws from the waist
  • Glute-ham raises
- Michael Palmieri

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