Having a teenager of my own and being exposed to her culture, both the female and male side, I’ve noticed a strong interest in core development among the young males. While this interest among these fellows in obtaining a great “core” might seem wonderful in that they are taking an interest in a physical fitness, I’ve noticed that it’s not the physical fitness part they are truly focused on but rather the aesthetic look. The drive to get the perfect six-pack.
Again, the bright side of this is that the ‘six-pack’ I refer to does not include beer. The downside is that by focusing solely on aesthetics, they are ignoring the true benefits of a strong and fit core.
My observations not only include being aware of profile and “snap-chat” photos openly and willingly shared among these young fellows who are eager to show off their bare “core’s” in a challenge to compete for whose core is best, but also the experience of having a few (not all) of these young males attend my Pilates class only to find that their core is really not that strong.
The core is not limited to the well-known muscles of six-pack that are obtained through forward flexion exercises, but also encompasses the muscles that relate and allow trunk extension, lateral flexion, as well as total hip movement.
Think arching of the back, both lower (lumbar region) and upper (thoracic region), side to side bending, rotation of the waist, and isolation of hip movements including circumduction movement of the legs.
Think flexors, abductors, and extenders using your gluteus (butt) all in one circular motion. Your trunk, from neck to butt has a spine running its length. The core muscles are what support all movement of the spine. Without proper conditioning of these muscles, your spine is literally ‘unsupported’ and over time will bear the brunt of your core’s neglect. Forward flexion exercises alone are not enough.
If you want to enhance athletic performance, prevent injury, and sustain a healthy spine longer, you need to work all the muscles of the core I mentioned above. Done correctly, the six-pack is an added bonus.
At least you’ll know that the well-developed core muscles often admired by all are real, not just window dressing. Another added benefit is a well-developed gluteus maximus, a muscle underappreciated for its support of the lumbar region.
Congratulations to the young men who have made it through some of my classes. Let’s hope it’s a sign that you will not repeat your parent’s generation of males who have stubbornly resisted proper core conditioning to the detriment of their spine’s health resulting in bad lower back problems as well as other issues.