NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whether it is running,
swimming, weight lifting or aerobics, fitness experts say the center of
all exercise routines is the core - the abdominal, back and muscles
around the pelvis - which is the seat of stability, strength and power.
Adding in exercise routines to strengthen the core can help the
runner go faster, the basketball player jump higher and the everyday
exerciser more easily do routine tasks from loading the car to
cleaning the tub.
"The core is everything except for arms, legs and head," said Daniel
Taylor, co-author with Greg Brittenham of the new book "Conditioning
to the Core."
It is the mainstay of the body, according to Taylor, who is the head
strength and conditioning coach at Siena College in upstate New
"People need to get away from saying 'I'm going to do abs today' and
take a larger view," said Taylor, whose book contains more than 300
exercises, ranging from planks, squats and lunges to medicine ball
and kettlebell throws presented in progressive routines.
"A lot of times people get stuck in one or two routines and get good
at them," he said. "You've got to make things more challenging to
Taylor said everything is linked to the core.
"If you jump it's transferred to the core. If you want to be a
better recreational running, strengthening the core will help
because your anchor is better," he explained.
The body's girdle is how New York City-based personal trainer JR
Allen describes the core.
Celebrity trainee Allen, whose clients include singer Mary J. Blige,
said even the breath is involved in core work.
"It's not about sucking in the stomach but about tightening," said
Allen, owner of 2 Day Be Fit. "If you watch a boxer before a punch,
he'll make a whistling sound. That's to engage the transverse
abdominals (the front and side muscles of the abdominal wall)."
Allen, a former body builder takes a personal approach to training.
"One of my favorite things to do is agility drills," he said. "Squat
jumps, alternating lunges with jumps and power skips: those types of
dynamic movements target your core."
Taylor said a mere 20-minute core workout, involving as few as four
rotating exercises in a circuit, serves as a good warm up for most
activities, from lifting weights to playing basketball.
"You don't have to destroy yourself. You don't have to do it for
hours, you don't need to exercise for a thousand repetitions. But if
you keep doing it you'll be stronger, better toned, with better
posture," he said. "And maybe your running times have improved."