Muscles You Must Train

If you've ever attended one of my courses, or done some personal training with me, you will have noticed that there are a few specific muscles I go on and on and on about. Regardless of the exercise, they always get a mention. Most incorrect movement patterns arise because one of these muscles isn't doing its job. Conveniently, they all fall into one category- core.

The term 'core' is unfortunately one that is used incorrectly in everyday language. Despite some disagreements between professions on exactly which muscles are included, here is a fairly general definition:

"These muscles act to stiffen the torso and function primarily to prevent motion. This is a fundamentally different function from those muscles of the limbs, which create motion. By stiffening the torso, power generated at the hips [and shoulders] is transmitted more effectively by the core"

For simplicity, we can think of these muscles in three categories: muscles that prevent motion of
1) the spine
2) the arms
3) the legs

Preventing motion of the spine is important, as the joints are flexible, and rely on the surrounding muscles to prevent damage. A common imbalance in these supporting muscles is caused by relatively strong erector spinae, and relatively weak abdominals, causing excessive force on the posterior side of the spine. This often results in lower back pain. My favourite exercise to create balance is the dead bug.

The thought of preventing movement of the upper and lower body seems a little crazy, but hear me out. Lets take gluteus medius as an example. 

"The role of the gluteus medius during activities such as walking and running is to dynamically stabilize the pelvis in a neutral position during single leg stance."

Keeping the pelvis stable is necessary to prevent injury, because if the pelvis rotates at every step, you can imagine how difficult it would be to keep the lumbar spine, knee and ankle in line without causing unecessary stress. My favourite exercise to test and strengthen gluteus medius is the lateral step down, often prescribed for knee rehabilitation.

The same principle occurs when we consider preventing movement of the arms. It is common to shrug the shoulders when producing force with the upper body, which essentially means the scapula (shoulder blade) is elevated. This can not only build tension in the neck, but can contribute to a hunched posture and can cause pain. Learning to control your scapula with your back muscles such as trapezius and rhomboids helps to develop pain free and powerful movement in the upper body.

In summary, if you only train one muscle group, please let it be your core- including abdominals, glutes and back. It will create stability in your posture, which may prevent pain or injury in the future.