There is a lot of information online regarding 'core' exercises and trainers talking about 'core' as though it is the most important thing to be concerned about. Rarely does someone ask what the core is. I have attended group fitness classes, listened to personal trainers and participated in workshops where people are nodding along to someone discussing and demonstrating a variety of exercises reminding everyone to activate their core without one person seeking to clarify what 'core' even means and how it is relevant.
Saying core is about as vague as saying the leg. Can you do a leg exercise? Well yes, but it tells you nothing about which part of the leg you are training. A core exercise is similar, it tells you nothing about which part you are training. If you have been told you have a weak core the first question you need to ask is which part. Another problem is if you look online or ask several people to define the core you typically get a variety of answers as there is no defined answer. Does it include shoulders? Glutes and hamstrings? Pelvic floor muscles? Muscles between ribs? Back, abdominals, chest, hip flexors? We have found these answers and some other quite bizarre examples of what the core is given by different people.
All these are very different so can you see the confusion when someone says activate 'core' or we are doing a 'core' exercise it is such a broad and varied term that it seems questionable. You can't be training everything in the core at once. It is not possible to train the front, back, sides, above, below all in a single exercise. Now you have some people coming away from a trainer, physio, chiro or massage with a diagnosed weak core you need to train. If they can't be specific then you might want to thank them for their time and try seeing someone else.
As an alternative it might be worth thinking about ways to break down "core" training into more focused challenges, such that your client knows exactly what they need to be training. As a trainer you can give examples and cues to teach clients how to appropriately brace themselves during exercises. You can also break down different motions through the trunk and be precise about which muscles we are seeking to strengthen.
Core and many other misused words are discussed in great detail within our Exercise Lab courses. The purpose is to become more professional in our skills and communication. Instead of copying the latest cool fad terms in the fitness industry, you will stand out as being the professional who can help educate others in a logical and more meaningful way. Come along to one of our free workshops or contact us for more information.