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Fresh, Fit and Healthy Fitness  
Fit to the Core
by Tom Bonanti

061610-dr-fresh-fit-and-healthy-fit-to-the-coreSo you want to get fit or turn up your current fitness program a few notches? What’s the first thing you should focus on? Should you start lifting mammoth weights to overload your muscles? Maybe sign up for nude Yoga six nights a week to increase flexibility? Perhaps you could start running ten miles a day first thing in the morning so you can puke up your breakfast on the way to work. With so many choices, where does a sane person start?

Most fitness professionals have for some time now promoted developing core strength as a foundation for any fitness regime. If you have a strong trunk or torso, which is considered your core, you can simply go farther more safely and successfully with your fitness goals.

Core strength begins with your posture. Stand up straight and tall – keep your shoulders back, don’t slouch, pull your belly button into the spine and lower back.

It’s crucial to develop core strength since the muscles of this area protect your spine and help prevent dreaded back injuries. By the way, back injuries and lower back pain are the main reason why people miss work and workouts! So, which are your core muscles? Your abdominals including your obliques (your sides), upper and lower back (deltoids and rhomboids), hips (gluteals, hip flexors, psoas) outer and inner thighs (abductors and adductors), hamstrings, the pectorals and triceps to some extent, and a whole host of deeper muscles you’ll never see, make up your core. So you see, training your core should be an essential part of everyone’s program.

Just as maintaining good posture is vital for core strength, so is maintaining good form when you are stretching or doing cardio and especially when you’re pumping iron. What good is it to be able to curl a 100 pound dumbbell if you rock back and forth and throw out your lower back? Review your form with each weight training exercise. Make sure you know which muscle groups you are training. Be careful not to rush, jerk or swing your weights. Significant core strength can be achieved simply by maintaining good form when you’re lifting weights.

To focus on the core, start out simply by exercising on a Swiss Ball as exercising on an unstable surface can help develop strength and steadiness in several muscles of the core at once. For example, instead of doing overhead dumbbell presses seated on a bench, steady yourself on a Swiss Ball and then perform the exercise. When performing dumbbell flies, situate yourself by lying across a ball and then do your chest flies. There are literally hundreds of ways to strengthen your core with one of these Swiss Balls. Just make sure that you get used to steadying yourself before you add heavy weights to your exercises.

Now that Mark Magazine has introduced you to core training you can download different exercises and regimes from the internet. Signing up for pilates and yoga to strengthen and develop your core might also be wonderful ideas. And of course, continue to check out this column each week… you’re sure to become “hard-core”!