Core Specialist, Cheryl Coppa, brings you unknown facts that could affect the way you've been training all your life.
By Cheryl Coppa
In traditional fitness training, you will come across many different core exercises which target just a part of the core. For example: 👉🏽 A crunch targets only 20% of the abdominals, the top part, or 👉🏽 A kegel (yes, the pelvic floor is part of your core) only contracts the bottom. Maybe you can relate, when you start to train your core, it is very common to feel the tension in your neck or your lower back and experience a lower belly pooch, because you end up working just parts of your core instead of all the different muscles. We can fix this by learning how to train your core as a whole. The same way you use your entire arm when you train your bicep or tricep. I’m going to share with you: how to do this, and why it’s important, and then give you my top 4 favorite core exercises you can try. But first, let’s understand - if you want to see a toned and defined core, you will still need to shed the fat. Core training is not going to necessarily burn abdominal fat (we don’t get to choose where fat burns off first, our genetics determine that.) Core training WILL build strength, stability, longevity, prevent injury, and will change the shape of your midsection. However, in order to shed fat, you will want to incorporate a fat loss plan for the best results. To get a customized plan click HERE for a one-on-one consultation once you are a member.
"Core training will build strength, stability, longevity, prevent injury, and will change the shape of your midsection. However, if you want to see a toned and defined core, you will still need to shed the fat. We can help you with that. Cheryl Coppa, Core Specialist, Ola Ka Ola"
This Muscle Group Has Been Left out of the Core Training Equation It’s a common misunderstanding that when a woman desires to have a defined core, she will do endless crunches investing so much time and effort to see little to no change. I was guilty of this once upon a time as well, after I got the 6-week “ok “ from my doctor after my 3rd child, I jumped right into fitness classes of high intensity and added extra crunches on the side. Ended up doing more harm than good, and ended up making my diastasis (ab separation) worse! Never got the six-pack abs either. Your time is important, so if you are going to invest small fitness deposits, let’s get it right and waste none of your time. Something that has been left out of the core training equation is the pelvic floor. Why is this important? It’s important because the pelvic floor is the foundation of your core, and to build a strong body, we need a strong foundation. You might not even realize it, but your pelvic floor is a part of just about everything you do. From walking, lifting children, working around the house, and of course in your exercise routines. If you have gone all your life without incorporating some training or rehab for this muscle, you will experience pain, leaking, and lower belly pooch (just a few of a very long list of ailments) at some point in your life.
"It’s a common misunderstanding that when a woman desires to have a defined core, she will do endless crunches investing so much time and effort to see little to no change. I was guilty of this once upon a time as well.", Cheryl Coppa, Core Specialist
So how do you train the core as a whole? I want you to think of your core as a cylinder or like these cans pictured below. The proper position and alignment of the core would be like in image 1. You can imagine that most of the time as we sit or even walk we have some misalignment of the core going on like in image 2 on the right.
When we train, I like to make up for the ways we are not moving during the day, so for the sake of productivity I like to train in a neutral position (no crunching or hunching), which gives the opportunity to work the entire core in all your movements. If you think about it - we spend most of our daily life in this crunched/hunched position. When we sit, stand, and walk around, many of us have a hunch or crunch position that we carry ourselves in. This positioning alone is pushing down on your belly creating a lower pooch and pushing down on the pelvic floor. So when we have an opportunity to correct a not ideal posture, I like to do that in our fitness training. In this neutral positioning, you set the stage to work your ENTIRE core. The pelvic floor and all the other core muscles. Not just the superficial ones, but the deep core as well, such as the diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominis, and multifidus. The deep core muscles stabilize your spine and are like a corset. Training these muscles will result in a STRONG, FUNCTIONAL, TONED, and SHAPELY core. Training this way will also protect your spine and your discs from injury. It’s not that crunches are bad, only if you are bearing down on your pelvic floor, if you are not incorporating the proper breathing that I I will share below, it’s very likely you are forcing pressure on your weakest link which very well could be your pelvic floor or any other area in your abdomen. This goes for any exercise, in your squats, in your pushups, even in your bicep curls, are you pushing down on your pelvic floor or even your belly? Learning how to incorporate your entire core will protect you from injury and level up ALL your fitness routines. Understanding pressure. When it comes right down to it, core exercise or any exercise really is about managing pressure. Pressure can make you stronger or it can cause damage such as pelvic floor dysfunctions, diastasis recti, hernia, bulging, or slipped discs. In any exercise, you perform if it is a core exercise or a squat it ALL comes down to, whether are you able to manage that pressure. Maybe you can squat heavy, but can your core or pelvic floor handle it?
"Crunches are not bad for you, but you need to incorporate the proper breathing when doing them (see video below) to protect you from any injury and level up ALL your fitness routines." Coppa.
Learning the first exercise below will restore strength to your core and pelvic floor as a whole, so you can manage pressure in any exercise you choose. This first exercise is hands down the best thing you can learn and incorporate into your everyday life and fitness routines. The first Exercise is The Core Breath. Once you learn this, essentially any exercise you do will be a core exercise! Really! This breathing pattern naturally strengthens the pelvic floor and when done in your neutral alignment, the entire core cylinder will be working together. You can do this also while sitting in the office. This can be challenging to learn at first, which is why we have a program that teaches you how to do this. It’s that important and is a GAME changer in pelvic health and CORE training and fitness in general! For every exercise you do, you can use The Core Breath with it. This breathing pattern will also protect your spine, Remember, pressure management. Learn it, it’s that good! It really is the only core exercise you need!
The Core Breath - Hands down the most effective core exercise you can learn
Second exercise: The Dead Bug. This a basic core exercise that you probably have done, but let’s make sure you are doing it right! Two game-changing components are positioning and breathing. Have the core and spine in a neutral position and maintain control. What happens a lot is many will just go right to the advanced option and end up not working their core at all, but instead end up with back pain. You want to maintain a neutral position in your core with no arching in the back or bulging in the belly. Check out a video demo below.
Master the Deadbug
The third exercise is The Bird Dog. Again, another one you probably have done but are you doing it right? This exercise is truly challenging if you are in the right position. Again, neutral spine and core. A common mistake is the head dropping down or leaning off to the side, the work is in maintaining control. I challenge you to watch THIS VIDEO and give it a try.
The Bird Dog - The perfect and complete Core & pelvic floor exercise
Fourth exercise: The Hip Dip. If you love that burn in the obliques, this is a good alternative for bicycle crunches. The perfect position paired with the Core breath is golden! Love this one, even when performed on your knees it's a killer. Line up that neutral position and dip! Check out the VIDEO for options.
The exercise to replace bicycles
If you can master this CORE BREATH you will have your strongest core and pelvic floor! Pair it with the movements in your daily life and in your exercise routines. It does take practice, but if you can master this, your body and core will thank you for their best performance and strength!
About Cheryl Coppa
✔️ A certified Core Confidence Specialist (Core and Pelvic Floor retraining)
✔️ A certified Personal Trainer specializing in women's fitness over 40
✔️ Low-Pressure Fitness / Hypopressive certified by creator Dr. Tamara Rial
✔️ Pre/postnatal corrective exercise specialist
✔️Instructor of the Pelvic Floor Health program, Ola Ka Ola
✔️ 40 years young, wife & mother of 3