I get this question a lot: Is there a difference between abs and core training?
And the quick answer is yes!
A better answer, however, would be, Yes, but …
Technically, the abdominals are part of the larger “core” group of muscles. Most folks consider the abs to be the small muscles in the front of the abdomen. The rectus abdominis is more commonly known as the six-pack, washboard, or even the cheese grater…
- The total core includes more than just the front of your abdomen, here is a very quick description of the major movers:
- The muscles next to the rectus abdominis group (transverse abdominis) for various movements and rotations of the trunk
- The “outsides” of your trunk (external and internal obliques) for rotation and side-bending of the trunk, also contributing to stability.
- Your lower back (quadratus lumborum) which plays a key role in stabilizing the rest of your body and maintaining posture.
Now that we’ve gotten through Anatomy 101, or more like 0.1, let’s talk training. For straight-up abs training, you can check out one of my previous columns. There’s some good info there for what I consider to be the most important factors if your goal is, in fact, seeing your six-pack.
Core Training is much more complex. To be fair, it also involves more muscles groups and so, it allows for an endless variety of exercises to tax your core. In very simple terms, core training involves bending, rotating, stabilizing, and protecting. There are so many ways to activate and strengthen the main core muscles, that for this article, I’ll just point out a few of my favorite ways to combine core training with other muscle group movements – since you guys know I’m all about working out in the most effective/efficient manner possible!
- Pushup position movements: I consider the “basic pushup,” when done right, to be a total-body exercise. Most people struggle with push-ups, ironically not due to a lack of pushing strength, but because they lack core strength. There really are countless ways to train from this base position, including proprioception from different combinations of hands/feet on the floor, adding resistance from dumbbells/bands/TRX, or different elevations/launching of either feet or hands or both! (See my Instagram challenges for some of these crazy exercises).
- Hanging movements: Of course, performing any kind of leg raises or static “L holds” while performing pull-ups is a pretty demanding movement. But a great way to build up to pullup strength is to perform a variety of leg/knee raises from a dead hang since many folks fail first with the grip strength to hold themselves up.
- Rotational movements: This is a very athletic way to train: If you think about most sports, there is an element of rotation in every explosion of power. As any good Little League coach would have told you – power comes from your hips, through your core, and into your shoulders. Think about emulating an athletic twist, and simulate that with a bit of resistance in your training, utilizing a cable machine/resistance bands/dumbbells to activate all the core muscles we identified earlier.
The good news? In training your total core, you will also be activating and strengthening your abs. Just remember the lessons we talked about to REVEAL your abs, and you will look/feel/perform better before you know it!