Don't Hurt Your Back
By Raymond Shipley
There seems to be a common misconception about core training. The "core" includes all muscles of the individual's corset area, including abdominals, obliques, erectors, etc; however, too often trainers and gym goers alike focus solely on ab training at the expense of balance and symmetry. This style of training can lead to imbalances and subsequent issues such as lower back pain.
So, how does the core work? The "core" is the corset of muscles and connective tissue that encircles and holds the spine in place. A stable spine remains upright while your body swivels around it, so the muscles must be balanced in order to handle heavy weight. Concentration on developing only one set of muscles can destabilize the spine by pulling it out of alignment. A core exercise program should emphasize all of the muscles that girdle the spine. Planks, quadupeds (aka "bird dogs"), crunches (no sit ups) and variations of these exercises, in addition to compound lifts that stress the core, should be used in order to keep a balanced physique.
The idea that abs, and specifically having a six pack, can be created via excessive working of the abdominal muscles isn't a new one. The problem is that despite the amount or even effectiveness of ab work done, without removing the layer of fat that sits on top never will one reveal the hard work put in to the development of said muscles. The strongest abs in the world will still be hidden behind belly fat if it isn't removed through nutrition and cardio. So, if the goal is a flat stomach or a six pack, focus primarily on building muscle as a metabolic tissue through bodybuilding style lifts using heavy, compound movements, and allow the nutrition and cardio to do the rest in removing the unwanted fat. Overtraining the abs will never reveal the midsection desired, and will create and exacerbate lower back issues.