Mike Carville: Solid to the core | TheUnion.com

Mike Carville: Solid to the core

I want to try something new in this week’s column. The number one request that I receive from readers is to explain in detail how to perform certain exercises that will help produce better results from their time in the gym. I spoke with my The Union editor and together we came up with an idea that we hope you’ll like.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words and my articles are limited, and for good reason, to about 600 words, we decided to leverage technology. This article, as well as the next several articles, will use video on The Union’s website to demonstrate how to safely and effectively perform the exercises described in this article. So go to http://www.theunion.com or visit the site and search for this article and then click on the link.

OK, now that I have used 132 words, I should get to the point of this article. I would like to discuss everyone’s favorite topic at the gym – abs! Yeah, the good old 6-pack. Actually, I am dating myself. Abs are passe. Now it’s the core.

You core is comprised of the muscles of your hips and trunk running up to your shoulders. Your core is essentially responsible for stabilizing your trunk so your arms and legs can produce or reduce the forces associated with moving your body. This includes any activity from lifting a bag of groceries, to swinging a golf club, or riding a bike.

This stabilization strength is also important for maintaining good posture. This can be important if you spend the majority of your day behind a desk, driving a car or on the couch.

In order to move efficiently and safely, your core must first stabilize your spine before the rest of your body moves. The next thing your core must do is maintain that stability as your body continues to move.

Think about bending down and lifting a heavy flower pot, walking with it, and then setting it down. This process requires you to stabilize your core, pick-up the pot, keep your core stable, walk while keeping your core stable, then placing the pot back on the ground while, you guessed it, still keeping your core stable to prevent excess strain or injury to your spine.

The process is the same when you add athletic movement like running, jumping and throwing. If your core is deconditioned or weak, a couple of problems can occur.

If your core is not strong enough to withstand the forces produced by the body when it moves you risk injury or strains. Again think about a golf swing or bending forward to pick up an object – ouch!

The other issue is one of timing. Your core muscles are supposed to activate and provide stability and support your spine before the big muscles like the hips, legs and arms move. If the timing sequence is incorrect then the core turns on after the body begins to move and the spine ends up providing more support than it wants to and therefore takes a beating. Approximately 84 percent of Americans will experience back pain at a cost of more than $90 billion annually, primary due to a weak core.

A strong core is not one that can do hundreds of sit-ups or crunches. A strong core is a core that doesn’t move when the rest of the body is moving. So how do you develop a strong core? Funny you should ask.

To effectively exercise the core, don’t exercise individual muscles like your 6-pack. Instead, think about doing movements that don’t move your core.

One of our favorite core exercises at South Yuba Club is the Chop and Lift. Using a cable machine at the gym or exercise bands at home you can create a functional core workout that not only strengthens your stabilizer muscles but also teaches those muscles how to activate and engage before your big movement muscle take over the game.

To learn how to perform the Chop and Lift and safely strengthen your core, log onto http://www.theunion.com for a video demonstration and technique tips.

Mike Carville is a personal trainer and co-owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City and Monster Gym in Grass Valley. For information, call (530) 470-9100 or

e-mail mikec@southyubaclub.com.

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