I guess we now have to change our daily gym routine as experts now suggest so-called core-training classes and equipment are largely a waste of time and an unnecessary fad.
The area of the body that gets most attention at gyms is the ‘core’. Workouts promising to hone your midsection so it not only looks good but supports your back and posture have become the norm. There is also a never-ending range of ‘core’ equipment, from core boards to semi-sphere balance trainers.
But some experts now suggest so-called core-training classes and equipment are largely a waste of time and an unnecessary fad.
‘There’s a lot of nonsense out there,’ says Professor Stuart McGill, director of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Many experts believe that the principles of core fitness have been taken out of context by an industry intent on making millions.
In one study, on rowers who followed an eight-week core-training gym programme in addition to their normal training, there was no improvement in a rowing-machine time trial at the end of the study.
It is something of a nebulous term, but the ‘core’ is generally acknowledged to be the complex corset of muscles and connective tissue that encircle the spine to hold it in place. There is no doubt that strong core muscles are crucial — they help to stabilise the trunk, enabling your legs to transfer power to your upper body so you can do everything from running and weight training to carrying shopping. By protecting the spine, they also help to prevent injury.
Crucially, it’s not just the abdominal muscles that create the sought-after ‘six-pack’ and midsection strength — all the muscles that girdle the spine need to be worked if improvements are to be noticed. ‘Training the core is essential to carry heavy loads, run fast and change direction quickly,’ says Professor McGill. ‘It determines the rate of speed for movement of the arms and legs. And a stable core is needed even for that most essential of human movements, the ability to walk.’
What irks him and others is that the concept has become so over-complicated and prone to inaccuracy, and is used to market useless equipment.
‘I don’t even use the word “core” any more, as what we are really referring to is the “trunk” area,’ says strength and conditioning expert Richard Kingston, a member of the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences.
‘It got horribly misconstrued by the gym industry in the last decade. Furthermore, exercises on a wobbly ball and similar devices won’t target the right range of muscles effectively.’