The Merriam-Webster dictionary has quite a few definitions of the word core. After all, it has quite a few meanings, often relating to the middle of things. In the case of fitness, the core refers to the middle of the body. However, we think another dictionary description sums it up even better, as the “basic, essential, or enduring part” of something.
We prefer this description because it could not be any truer. The core of your body is indeed very essential to your physical health and strength. Working at it and keeping it healthy and powerful will be incredibly beneficial to you both during your workouts and also in your daily life.
What Is Your Core, Anyway?
Let’s start with the basics.
Your core is your set of abdominal and surrounding muscles, including your hips, back, and shoulders. For many, toning and strengthening their core is purely aesthetic— after all, a set of washboard abs is a very desirable feature to many of us. However, strengthening your core goes well beyond how you’ll look in a bathing suit this summer. After all, your abdominal muscles are the facilitators for a large bulk of the movements that you make every day. Also, it does store and protect your central nervous system, and quite a few of your organs. Because of this, core building and strengthening are important because they are great for your body, in terms of both your physical fitness routine and in your daily life.
Why is Core Strength So Important?
We believe that core strength is among the most crucial parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A few of our most pressing reasons?
Not only is poor posture not exactly the world’s most attractive look, but also it can be tough on your back and other parts of the body. If you’re a chronic “sloucher,” there’s still hope for you to improve your posture. As it turns out, a weak core might be to blame. By honing in on your core and working on strengthening it to the max, you’ll likely find that your shoulders and upper back are better primed for keeping upright.
You may assume that a weak core only causes pain after a tough workout that calls upon your abdomen. However, a weak core has also been found to contribute to physical pain outside of your exercise hours. Actually, overly built back muscles often go hand in hand with under-toned abdominal muscles. Furthermore, activities that aren’t great for your core have the same negative impact on your back. For example, sitting slouched over a desk every day without engaging your core muscles can lead to nasty complications, like compressed spinal discs.
As we mentioned above, your abdominal muscles encase quite a few of your most essential organs, veins, and arteries. These internal parts work incredibly hard all day— and it’s the job of your abdomen to protect them.
When you strengthen the muscles of your core, you are giving another layer of security to your internal organs and arteries. A strong core will be able to give your organs the support it needs to function, and help you move with ease. Alternately, when your organs are left with no help from your weak core, you might find yourself having unexplained pain later in life.
One of the best things about a strong core is the physical stability it provides. With a strong core, one can get the absolute most out of their workout routine; it can help you hold a yoga pose for longer, perfect your form for push-ups, or run with more speed and focus. Not only does this enhance your physical fitness results, it plays a large role in preventing you from getting injured.
When your body is in a stable, core-led position, it is easier to perform arduous tasks, whether that’s lifting a heavy sofa during a move, or participating in a triathlon. With either of these (very different) activities, it’s crucial for your movements to be on track. The wrong twist or turn in your body could most certainly ruin your day— or worse. Having the grounded stability of a strong core will prevent those types of injuries.
A stronger core will make once-difficult seeming tasks feel like a breeze. After all, your body will be primed to perform them and will have the necessary strength to follow through. Also, less risk of injury will inspire you to keep working away.
First thing’s first: everybody is built differently. A strong, powerful core will not look the same on every person, and one most certainly does not need toned abs to look amazing. However, many people who spend time strengthening their core do find that their midsection becomes trimmer, and more toned in the process. So, if you just so happen to like how you look with a stronger core, that’s great news. Bring on the trips to the beach— chances are, you’ll feel confident, powerful, and attractive. Plus, that once-difficult jog along the sand will feel like child’s play.
Are There Certain Workouts That Strengthen the Core?
Lots of folks associate core strengthening exercise with crunches and yoga balls, but it can reach far beyond that. Really, there are plenty of core-strengthening exercises that suit a wide variety of lifestyles. After all— we all work out in different ways.
Plenty of popular exercises help to condition and strengthen the core, like push-ups, or dumbbell drags. We have quite a few favorites. However, our top three would probably be:
This is a classic core-strengthening exercise, and for good reason— it works! It’s also fairly straightforward to newbies to the fitness (or core strength focused) world. To perform a plank, come down to the floor, and place your forearms and knees on your matt. Your shoulders should be directly over the elbows, and your hands should be extended. Once you’re in position, tuck your toes, and gently lift up your knees away from the matt. Be sure to hold your form and keep your core taut. For this workout, try to start out doing this for a minute at a time. Eventually, you’ll likely be able to hold it for longer.
The three-point touch is swiftly gaining popularity in fitness communities for its ability to strengthen the core without needing anything but a yoga mat.
To perform the three-point touch, get into a pushup position on your mat. Align your hands right beneath your shoulders, and keep your feet together.
Now come the “three points.” Twist your hips to bring your left leg underneath your body and over to the right side. Now, touch the floor with your heel. That’s a point. Bring the leg back to its original position, with your toes touching the matt. That’s your second point. Finally, bring it out to the side and touch the floor with your toe. That’s your third and final point. Repeat the entire process with your right leg. This exercise can start off with a minute and can be worked up into a longer routine.
The bridge pose finds its way into many forms of exercise, and we love what it does for the core. It’s also a great stretch! To safely perform the bridge, lay on your back atop your mat. Plant your feet on the mat (with your knees pointing skywards) and keep them apart— the length of your hip. Engage your abdominal muscles, press your back deeply into the floor, and place your arms on the ground, aside your body. Pull your shoulders back into the mat, like you did with your back. Starting with your pelvis, lift your body from the mat, one vertebrae at a time, and try to get your hips as high up as possible. Now, slowly return your body back to the mat, vertebrae by vertebrae. Repeat this exercise for at least a minute, and work your way up to longer reps over time.
Is it Possible to Build a Strong Core Through Nutrition?
To strengthen your core, you will need to engage in physical activity that promotes abdominal strength. However, you can supplement your hard work by following a healthy and nutritious diet in your daily life. It may not be the force that strengthens your core, but it will most certainly help your core work show up on your body. These foods help your body to bust the extra fat that tends to stick around the abdomen, allowing your torso to attain a more toned and trim appearance as your core workouts begin to take hold.
So, what are these special foods? We love:
Not only are eggs versatile, but they are also a dream for banishing dreaded belly fat and helping you reveal the abs that lay beneath. They have an ideal amino acid balance, and contain choline, a nutrient thought to raise metabolism levels and even shut down certain genes that are responsible for retention of fat in the stomach. Also, eggs make a super fortifying breakfast, and will keep you full for ages. We also love keeping them hard-boiled and peeled in the fridge, so they’re ready to snack on in a moment’s notice.
Is it just us, or are almonds the perfect food? They’re delicious raw or toasted, sweet or salty, blended into nut butters, soaked into vegan-friendly “milk,” or just enjoyed whole. They make a satisfying snack, and go with pretty much everything— seriously, try to imagine one ingredient that would taste bad with almonds!
When it comes to shaping your torso, almonds play a pretty noble role. They actually have the ability to block the calories that you consume. Furthermore, they’re loaded with magnesium, which actually helps to strengthen those muscles you’re working on. Try throwing some toasted almonds into your next salad, use them instead of pine nuts in pesto, or even throw them into a veggie stir fry for a delicate and tasty crunch.
The fiber in vegetables like kale, spinach or broccoli is a great tool for maintaining your figure and properly digesting food. They’re also chock full of calcium, which will do wonders for your muscles and energy levels during your training sessions. These days, one of our favorite uses for broccoli is to simply throw them on the barbecue, drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and serve them with an (almond-based!) romesco sauce for dipping. Yum!
At Jack City Fitness, your core strength is important to us. That’s why we offer both nutritional counseling and personal fitness coaching sessions. We want to make sure that you are using your body in a way that enables you to perform at your very best— whether that means here at our gym, or whenever you need to carry out physical activity in your daily life.
When you sign up to become a partner with Jack City Fitness, we welcome you to the family by inviting you to our brand new facility for a free consultation. From there, we’ll be able to help you find the best workout routines for you— whether that means strengthening your core, gaining muscle, or training your cardiovascular system. It’s all available here— and our gym is open to you 24 hours a day, so you can work on your own schedule, not anybody else’s.
see us today— you won’t believe just how capable and strong you really are.
What’s the Deal with Foam Rolling?
It used to be reserved for true fitness experts and professionals. Now, engaging in self-myofascial release, otherwise known as foam rolling, has become as commonplace as the crunches or push-ups that have preceded it.
However, there are still misconceptions and pieces of misinformation floating around about this beneficial form of a post-workout massage. Luckily for you, our team at Jack City Fitness is here to set the record straight.
What Is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, which is a technical term for a (self-administered) massage that’s designed to release tension or trigger points in the muscles. Aside from a foam roller, self-myofascial release, or SMR, can be performed with a ball (lacrosse balls are especially popular), specialized “canes,” your own set of hands, or even a wine bottle or rolling pin. These messages are often utilized after physical activity, but they needn’t be limited to that; SMR foam rolling makes for a great warm-up as well.
The idea is that, by applying a certain amount of pressure to targeted, tense muscle areas, you can massage them into a healthier state. Ideally, after a self-myofascial release session, your muscles should be functioning at their standard level— meaning they’re elastic and loose enough that they won’t get damaged if you chose to, say, take a long walk or bike ride after your workout session. It will also bring you physical relief if you’re feeling discomfort or pain as a result of tight muscles.
Some of our favorite reasons to use a foam roller are:It Can Cool You Down…
Foam rolling is especially popular (and beneficial) for use after a great training session. (Check out the best tips for maximizing muscle building here. A recent study has even shown that using this technique after a strenuous workout can actually alleviate discomfort associated with DOMS— aka Delayed Muscle Soreness. Not only does it feel better, it actually can enhance your future training days— by avoiding Delayed Muscle Soreness, you are more likely to have a successful performance in your next session.
Though the post-workout foam rolling session may be perhaps the most frequently discussed, it’s certainly not the only fish in the sea. For many, there is no better time to utilize their handy foam roller than before diving into physical activities, like a training session, a nice jog, or a rousing round of their favorite sport.
The reason that self-myofascial release works so well as a warmup is quite straightforward: it all comes down to blood flow. For instance, if today is leg day, your foam roll workout would ideally focus on calves, hamstrings, and quads. By focusing on these muscles and giving them lots of love with the foam roller, you’ll actually be encouraging more blood to flow to the area. It’ll make your workout smoother, and your muscles will be more receptive to the exercises you’re giving them.
We’ve all been there— whether it comes from diving into a routine without properly working out or attempting a trip to the gym after sitting on a long car ride or flight, sometimes tight muscles find their way into your workout. This can be uncomfortable at best, and downright painful or even dangerous at its worst. Foam rolling offers a swift and easy solution to that problem; your body will feel more flexible, have a larger range of movement, and you’re less likely to snap or tear your muscles during physical activity.
Finding your Trigger Points
When a knot forms in your muscle, that’s sometimes referred to as a trigger point. These guys can be pretty sensitive at best, and can be downright agonizing at their worst, especially when they form in large amounts— this is referred to as myofascial pain syndrome.
Trigger points are caused by a number of elements: your personal posture, an excessive amount of intense exercise, your diet, or even mental stress or anxiety can all contribute to tight muscles and trigger points. However, foam rolling massages can battle these painfully tight knots.
When you properly engage in SMR with a foam roller, you are actually releasing these trigger points. By doing this, you are enabling your body to attain a larger range of motion without pain during training. It also helps to realign your movement patterns, hence allowing you to perform at your very best.
One unique element of trigger points is that they can lead to a strange (but sometimes wonderful) phenomenon known as “referred pain.” By utilizing the powers if pain referral, your body can do some pretty spectacular things.
Wait…”Referred Pain?” Well, That Doesn’t Sound Very Nice…
You’re right. It sounds pretty negative, doesn’t it? Referred pain is actually a natural element of bringing your body more relief through foam rolling and other forms of self-myofascial release. Though it doesn’t always feel comfortable, it will save you from a lot of pain in your daily life, your workout sessions, and the future. Worth it, if you ask us.
Referred pain is a pretty fascinating phenomenon and is similar to the concept of acupuncture or acupressure. Essentially, when a trigger point is massaged or pressed, the topical site isn’t the only area on your body which feels pain. In referred pain scenarios, the soreness from the trigger will radiate to another spot.
A common example of this technique is the use of a foam roller on your iliotibial band. Though your trigger point will lay around your knee and thigh, applying pressure to this knot will radiate (or “refer”) pain out to your legs, hips, and even all the way down to your ankles. There’s no use in sugar coating it: this is not a painless or comfortable process. It can hurt quite a bit— but should never be excruciating. After the foam rolling session is over, the pain should dissipate.
How Can Foam Rolling Benefit Me and my Body?
Not only does foam rolling feel great, it’s also chocked full of benefits that will enhance your daily life and your fitness routine.
Curious about some of the best-regarded benefits of using a foam roller?
If you’ve ever suffered from uncomfortable knots in your neck, back, and other muscles, you’re probably aware of how much of a pain they can be. A good one-on-one massage session with your trusty foam roller can tackle and work through those tough knots and provide some much-needed relief.
As it turns out, participating in a self-myofascial release massage is thought to give your circulatory system a boost. That’s right— as you work the tissue in a particular area of your body, your blood will have an easier time flowing to that spot. Not only will this make your workout easier and more productive, but it’s incredibly good for you; a well-functioning circulatory system can promote heart health, as well as enhance your body’s arteries and muscles.
Yes, that’s right! Giving yourself a dose of self-myofascial release through a foam roll massage doesn’t only benefit your muscles and tissue. It also helps your body get rid of nasty toxins. Over time, your connective tissues tend to accrue a bit of unwanted metabolic waste, like lactic acid. This is completely normal— but still not something anybody wants or needs! Many health professionals believe that by directly focusing on a certain toxin-laden muscle or tissue area, one can break down and release the waste build-up.
The many benefits of foam rolling all come together to create an easier, more straightforward training session for you. Once it’s become a part of your routine, you will likely see a major difference in your daily life, especially when it comes to movement. This can apply to your fitness routine (the gym, your morning jog, your sports team, or a weekend hike,) or even to daily movements that you don’t even think about— running for the bus, playing with your kids, or even climbing up your steep driveway after you park your car on the curb.
As we’ve discussed, engaging in self-myofascial release before a workout is extraordinarily beneficial; it helps your circulation and loosens your muscles! However, the magic really comes when you combine those benefits. By always giving yourself a good foam roller massage after working out, you’ll be enhancing your next training session. After all, as we mentioned earlier, self-myofascial release is known to alleviate Delayed Muscle Soreness. In turn, your body will be better equipped for physical activity in the future. You’ll be able to move easier, with less fear of sustaining an injury.
When is the Best Time to Engage in Foam Rolling, and Why?
As we outlined earlier, foam roller based self-myofascial release can be performed at any time and is especially beneficial before and after a training session.
Though we certainly see the merit in foam rolling at any time, we believe the best time is after a strenuous workout. Its incredible ability to reduce Delayed Muscle Soreness cannot be emphasized enough— it’s a complete game changer! We also love that it’s entirely self-administered, so if any particular muscle feels especially tight or uncomfortable after a training session, working that nasty knot away is entirely in control of the individual.
Are there any Helpful Tips on How to Properly Use a Foam Roller?
Of course! Like any physical activity, foam rolling has a few techniques that make it more effective.
What are the tensest or tight spots on your body? Typically, they tend to be your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and areas along your back, such as the thoracic spine. These areas need the most love— so be sure to give them the proper attention they need during your foam roll massage.
Your muscles aren’t going to relax if you aren’t. Allow yourself to focus on taking big, slow breaths and keeping your mind and body as calm as possible.
A thirty-second rubdown with your foam roller isn’t going to accomplish very much. Take at least five minutes to engage in self-myofascial release. To make the most of it, we recommend a full ten minutes.
When you begin your process, be sure to take it easy on your body. To start, each muscle or area should ideally be pressed for around 20 seconds. It’s enough time to work that knot out, but not so long that it will harm a particularly sensitive spot. Eventually, each muscle group can be massaged for around two minutes, as long as they aren’t too tender or sensitive. On that note, if a specific muscle group or trigger point feels tender, don’t push it. Working on it for longer than necessary could cause bruising or even damaging your nerve— ouch!
Now that you’ve learned the secrets of enhancing your workout with the powers of self-myofascial release, let’s put it into action. At Jack City Fitness, we are thrilled to give our fitness partners the best Boise has to offer in fitness, nutrition, and self-confidence. When you sign up for a partnership with Jack City, we will invite you to our state of the art fitness facility for a complimentary consultation with our team— and even a go on our famous InBody machine. From there, you’ll be able to enjoy 24-hour gym access, a large variety of group classes (including our Flexibility and Mobility class where you can put these recommendations to use), personal fitness and nutrition coaching sessions, and even customized online training, for the days that you can’t make it to our site.
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today! We can’t wait to show you everything we have
You’re sitting at your work desk, feeling sluggish, wishing you wouldn’t have skipped your gym workout yesterday. You’re planning to hit the weights after work today, but you’re in the slumps. You took too much time off so how can you return? What if there’s more to do throughout the day to get you prepared for the gym? What if working out at the gym will help you remember to fit more activity into your day? What if the two work together, improving your fitness efforts?!
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Ways to Get More Fitness & Activity Into Your Day
Everyone struggles to find the time to be active, and fit fun, healthy exercises into their schedule. While it may seem like a burden to exercise, we assure you that there are small routine changes you can make to be more active throughout the day. Take the first step by following some these tips, and you are well on your way to a better tomorrow!
Olympic weightlifting may not be in your immediate future, and that’s perfectly fine, but breaking out of a sedentary lifestyle should be. Here are some tips to escape your desk or couch and get a better grip on your nutrition during a typical day:
Finding the Time to Workout
It’s important to fit in weightlifting time at the gym. The benefits of lifting weights are two-fold: you get to be more active and you’re less likely to get injured. Weights help you maximize your time at the gym. When you’re efficient with your gym time, you have more time to enjoy life. Outside of the gym you can improve your health in the followings ways:
Make the Most Efficient Use of Your Workout
By recognizing and making an effort to utilize your time wisely during workouts, positive results will follow. Dedicating enough focus to crush a short 30 minutes of exercise per work day, a total of 150 minutes per week, could revolutionize your health.
Out of the many key principles of weight and resistance training, one of the most important aspects and my biggest pet peeve is that of “specificity”: doing exercises and routines specific to the goal you are pursuing. It seems like an obvious statement, and for the most part, people try to do their best in accomplishing this principle. Programming a routine to accomplish this gets complicated when the goal is more complex than simply doing “something”. Even with a goal like losing weight or gaining muscle, programming is not as simple as many articles and trainers claim. Purposeful Training is key to the principle of specificity when utilizing weight or resistance training.
Let’s take a look at a runner. In the gym, if you look at the many different kinds of lifts and routines that exist and try to make a routine that mimics the muscle activation and load sequence of a person running or sprinting, ultimately you will fail in combining exercises to accomplish this. Too many runners look for routines to try and essentially make their weight routine a running workout. This is where purposeful training is a necessary concept to learn when looking for an effective routine. For a runner, weights can never mimic the repetitive nature of impact the muscles and propulsion create from ground reaction forces creating forward motion. Nor would you ever lift a weight in the same position as you would run. (Lifting on a flat foot is proper form, but you want to run on the front 2/3’s of your foot). Lifting will never replace a sport-specific activity, but in this case of running, lifting does accomplish some very important goals for runners: strengthens joints, increases power production and provides other Endocrine system benefits very advantageous to runners and other endurance athletes. Though the moves themselves are not “specifically” mimicking running, the result is purposeful to the activity.
Even with non-performance based goals, such as losing weight, weight training routines are not all alike. There are plenty of people guilty of asking for help losing weight and referencing Arnold Schwarzenegger or other top tier bodybuilders unaware of the contradiction they have found. Bodybuilders are in the business of gaining size, getting bigger and bigger: the opposite of what the average person wanting to lose weight is looking for. The average gym goer and recreational athlete would not benefit using a routine from these sources because of the emphasis put on gaining size. Weight loss would be minimized if even experienced at all.
Take a look at your goals when determining the routine you are thinking about following. Performance-based goals are going to require specific muscle groups trained for the purpose to optimally perform a certain task. These often require coordination and neurological adaptations to perfect technique, making lifting more of an addition ON TOP of your performance-specific training, not a replacement. Non-performance based goals can typically be accomplished by a range of exercises; however, the way the resistance is moved, the sets and reps, and rests in-between intervals need to be such that the body adapts and changes in the way that the exercises dictate (not training to gain mass while trying to lose weight).
The moral of this story is that your resistance training program needs to be specific to the purpose of your fitness journey. Be wary of a lot of lifts that are not necessary for your progress. Before you begin any routine, study it, criticize it, and find what will benefit you and what won’t. Consult a professional on the subject, and nail your routine down to something that will work specific to what you are looking for.
Every Day… A Little Stronger
Strength and Performance Coach