The “core” has been getting a lot of press for the past 10 years or so. My doctor says I need to “Strengthen my core” is  something I’ve heard a lot from clients over the past several years. Truth be told, the core is a somewhat nebulous concept, with many trainers I’ve seen thinking it is the abdominal muscles. Most scientists, including myself, believe it is the network of muscles and connective tissue that encircle and hold the spine in place, like a corset. If your core is stable, your spine remains upright, and allows your trunk to swivel around it. If the muscles in front or on the side, for instance, are too tight, you’ll bend that way.  As Dr Stuart Magill says, “Think of the spine as a fishing rod with guy wires supporting it-if all of the guy wires are equal in strength, the spine stays straight; if any of the group are stronger, the spine will pull itself out of alignment. With the current focus on six-pack abs, I am concerned.  I see many trainers working only the abs for core strength, when, in reality, there are many other muscle groups to keep strong. They tell their clients to pull their stomachs in, which concentrates only one area of the so-called ‘core’, leaving the spine destabilized and at risk for injury. Nothing like hurting your back while exercising, to turn you off to the whole idea. Seeing trainers do this really aggravates me. I realize that they are preaching what they were taught, but does anyone ever question authority anymore?

The guy wires you need to strengthen and stretch, are the gluts, the abs, the hamstrings, and the hip flexors.

Stretching before a workout, bad? The old way of stretching, the way I and millions of other kids learned from the 40’s through today, is wrong, and potentially dangerous. Touching toes, holding any stretches for 20-30 secs before actually engaging in activity actually increases your chances for injury. The right warm-up should do two things; it should loosen the range of motion for the muscles and the tendons, and literally raise the temperature of the body (Q-10 effect). The warm-up not only prevents any muscle/ligament pulls, but the Q-10 effect quickens the rate at which the enzymes for muscle contraction and respiration work. For every 1 degree of temp increase, the rate of enzyme speed increases 10-fold. I think that’s pretty cool…..Think about all of the applications.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.