By Kim Duke

NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

In the last decade, working the core has become all the rage.  But core consciousness is no mere fad. Awareness of the importance of a strong, stable core is the key to a stronger more injury-resistant self.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits of maintaining a lean, tight core, there are important functional pluses as well.  Imagine easing back pain, improving posture and balance and being able to lift heavy objects without strain or stress.  A strong core allows you to execute everyday movements with ease, even as you age.  Core training is an insurance policy for keeping the body performing at peak levels.

There are three key elements to core training and fitness:

1. Breathing

2. Form

3. Speed

Breathing. Think of the inhalation as an archer’s bow before launch, and follow it with a deep exhale on the positive or extended portion of the movement as if you were releasing the arrow.  Aim for slow and controlled negative followed by an explosive positive.

Form.  Every exercise has its proper starting position, movement path and action.  Maintain control through every repetition; controlled exercise develops strength, stamina, flexibility and ease of movement.

Speed.  Neither rush through your reps nor greatly slow them; instead adopt a neutral pace that you can sustain throughout the set while keeping proper form.  You want to focus on completel exercises in a full range of motion and not letting momentum do the work your core should be doing.

For best results, less is more: aim to lengthen the muscle, then contract and squeeze.  Place the tension on the core muscles you are working without recruiting muscles you are not.