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A Six Pack Doesn’t Equal a Strong Core

A Six Pack Doesn’t Equal a Strong Core

Everybody knows that the best way to strengthen your core is to build up your six-pack by doing lots and lots of crunches, right?


The reality is what many people do to strengthen their core might actually be ruining their backs. With “core training” becoming one of the biggest topics in any gym, fitness program, or workout DVD, there have been many claims and promises sent out to people trying to improve their health and looks. Claims like,

“This workout will give you the ripped abs and strong core you always wanted.”

“My training method will give you the six pack you need for a strong core for a healthier back.”

Sound familiar?

It turns out that the workouts giving you those sexy, six-pack abs might be the same exercises ruining your back.

Doing sit-ups put an extreme amount of stress on the structures of your spine, especially the discs. With repeated stress to the discs, it may result in a herniation which can lead to:

  1. Pain
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling, and/or weakness in the legs.

Doing sit ups does not train your abs to do what they are supposed to do – keeping your spine straight and stable as you perform functional movements like lifting and squatting.

So what is the core and what does it do?

The core is the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back.

Now when I say abdominals I’m not talking six-pack. I’m talking the deeper muscles that act as a brace for your back when you move, lift, and bend.

How do your strengthen your core safely?

A good core exercise program should emphasize all of the major muscles that girdle the spine including, but not concentrating on, the abs. This includes muscles of the shoulder and neck.

The best way to train your core is to challenge the muscles to perform the way they’re designed and expected to work in real life, and not to train muscles in isolation. Strong abs are important but they are not the only thing.

You have to strengthen the back extensors, flexors, obliques, and the muscles that stabilize your shoulder blades as well. Working all of these muscle groups – “the core” – is essential to both back health and general athleticism.

Stay tuned for an introduction to a few basic core exercises on Thursday!

Do you have back pain when doing core exercises?

If you have back pain while performing core training exercises, sign up for a free assessment with CBPT.  We can assess any pain or injury you may have while performing core exercises.


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Roland Dulla, PT, DPT, OCS
In his spare time Roland enjoys snowboarding, cooking, eating, playing the guitar, playing the drums, working out, and spending time with family and friends.