If You Think Your Core Is Just Your Abs…Think Again

As a lead in to my first Blue Zone post, I briefly mentioned that I had back surgery and how I learned first-hand how important it is to have good core strength. (Spoiler: I’m not going to make this blog about my experience…if you have back issues and you want to hear more about my journey to being pain-free, email me.) We all know, or have heard, how important it is to have good core strength. Unfortunately, a lot of people equate core strength with having a six-pack or flat stomach, and that’s missing the point.

We shouldn’t think of core training as a way to slim down. Think of your core muscles as the sturdy, central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. No matter what you do – getting out of bed, hitting a tennis ball, vacuuming the house – the motions either originate in your core, or move through it.

A strong, flexible core underpins virtually everything we do:

A strong, flexible core underpins virtually everything we do

Everyday acts. Your first act of the day – getting out of bed – requires nearly all core strength. And it only continues from there. Bending to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair — these are just a few of the many everyday actions that rely on your core and that you might not notice until they become difficult or painful.

Your job. Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on core muscles. And don’t think if you have an office job that you aren’t using your core. Less obvious tasks — like sitting at your desk for hours — engage your core as well. Phone calls, typing, computer use, and similar work can make back muscles surprisingly stiff and sore, particularly if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and aren’t taking sufficient breaks.

Sports and fitness activities. Golfing, tennis or other racket sports, biking, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, rowing, and many other athletic activities are powered by a strong core. Less often mentioned are sexual activities, which call for core power and flexibility, too.

Balance and stability. Your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction, even on the bumpiest terrain, or stand in one spot without losing your balance. Viewed this way, core exercises can decrease your risk of falling.

Dad and son outdoors

And, most importantly, a healthy back. About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives.If you’ve ever experienced neck or back pain, you know how debilitating this can be. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to talk about my experience. Instead, I want to tell you about…

A Client Success Story: My Father-in-Law

I love my in-laws. They’re support of our family is unwavering. When I set out on this personal training career, my father-in-law was quick to sign on. He did this in part to support my career change and better understand what it was all about, but he also did it because he knew he would benefit from some exercise.

For years my father-in-law had suffered from low back pain. The episodes weren’t too frequent at first, but the frequency began to increase. His only reprieve was medication and bed, which caused him to miss out on activities he loved – sailing, trips to New Hampshire, and evenings at the sailing club. There was also an inopportune flare up about the time they were buying, selling, and moving to a new house. Whew…talk about stress!

He started training with me in October 2017. Because he hadn’t exercised in years and due to his back pain, we focused a lot on building functional strength with a bit more focus on his glutes (due to sciatic pain) and core. Since he started training with me, he has not had a significant episode of back pain. Not only hasn’t he had any back pain, but he’s now engaging in activities (like lifting, bending, kickball games with his grandchildren, etc..) that he avoided for fear of aggravating his back.

I’m not trying to prop up my own skills as a trainer by highlighting my father-in-law’s story. We didn’t do anything “special” or “innovative.” The simple goal was to build functional strength, safely. He’s incredibly proud and happy that he hasn’t had any significant back issues since starting training. And as a trainer (and son-in-law), his success is my success and only validates why I made this career change.

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1 thought on “If You Think Your Core Is Just Your Abs…Think Again”

  1. Jason, this story is very meaningful. I, too, like your father-in-law, have had back pain seemingly forever (50+ years), often sciatica. Surely a long road trip and activities like gardening would consistently activate it. Well, I want to “report in” to you and Andre and the others at FOR that our two day road trip from Alexandria to Door County, WI (sailing country!) and subsequent gardening has not resulted in any back pain! It almost seems miraculous. Honestly, as I road passenger seat 18 hours, I waited for the pain down my leg and it never came! So, kudos to Andre and what you all do there! Waking up the glutes and so much has been absolutely essential to me. Thank you!

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