Want to get stronger, fitter and slimmer? Train from the inside, outwards


Carve your core

Want to get stronger, fitter and slimmer? Train from the inside, outwards.

What do you think of when I talk about your core? Your stomach? Your love handles, perhaps? Actually, everything your arms, legs and heads your core – this means right down to your buttocks. Your core muscles are at the centre of every move you make, providing a stable platform for your limbs to work off. A strong core will generate the strength and stability you need to do everyday activities – such as climbing the stairs – bolster your sports performance and reduce injury risk. A weak, badly trained core, however, will leave your spine vulnerable and create an inefficient transition of power from your lower body to your upper body.


If your core consists of more than the tummy muscles, what exactly is it? You can think of your core as two distinct parts – the inner and outer core. Although the two function together as one unit, it’s important to understand the difference between them if you are to condition them effectively,

Want to get stronger, fitter and slimmer? Train from the inside, outwards Photo Gallery

INNER CORE: Your inner core forms a compression chamber with the transverse abdominis muscles at the front, the multifidus muscles at the sides, and the diaphragm and pelvic floor on the top and bottom. This chamber helps brace the spine when under load and prevents a ‘potbelly’, by keeping your organs in place.

OUTER CORE: Your outer core is used for movement, and includes the frontal six-pack abdominals (rectus abdominis), the obliques and latissimus dorsi muscles at the sides, and spinal erector in the back.In my experience, most clients have a badly functioning inner core, due to an excess of sitting, rapid breathing when stressed and a poor diet. And it’s vital to restore the function of your inner core before spending time on your outer core.


All core training should begin with your inner core and then move outwards. You can develop your inner core through specific breathing techniques (see below), and mastering them can take anything from hours to months, depending on how often you practise. Once you’ve mastered your inner core, you can work on conditioning your outer core. Focus first on stabilisation exercises such as planks and bridges to help you get used to actively engaging your core muscles. Then move onto dynamic stabilisation moves, such as the Pallof press (below), keeping your core still during movement. Finally, progress onto dynamic woodchop or windmill moves.


Intense core exercises should always be performed at the end of a workout. As your core muscles provide important stabilisation and protection for your spine, it would be dangerous to exhaust them before your main workout. Exercising with an exhausted core would leave you training with an unsupported spine. Not ideal. That said, a few gentle core activation exercises designed to engage your core are fine to do before a workout – just don’t go overboard!Trainer to the trainers, Greg Brookes is a fitness expert and founder of gb personal training.com-.


On all fours, practise breathing out for a count of five while pulling in your belly from your naval. Then breathe in, as you let your belly fall, to a count of five. Perform 10 reps. On just your hands and the balls of your feet, pause at the top of a push-up. Keep your body straight from shoulders to heels and your core engaged. Remain in the pose for up to 60 seconds.Stand sideways on to a band attached at shoulder height. With both hands at your chest, straighten your arms and keep your core tight to prevent your upper body rotate to the side. Perform eight reps on each side.Move a medicine ball quickly from your left knee to above your upper right side Keep your core tight and back flat. Perform 12 reps on each side.

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