Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Is The Best Core Exercise According To Scientific Research?

By Howe Russ

With the recent fascination in the fitness world to focus on developing functional fitness levels, you may find it comes as a surprise to discover that the best core exercise is not based on a yoga mat. In fact, if you want to develop a leaner, stronger base from which to boost all your big lifts you'll have to go back to the annals of bodybuilding years gone by.

In fact, most gym users are so sure that the greatest core developmental exercise is a body weight move they would place money on it, such is the tendency for trainers to label body weight training with buzz phases like 'engage your core' and 'functional training'.

However, the king of core exercises was recently discovered to be front squats performed with a loaded barbell.

Not only is this gym based barbell work, but it's an exercise which is consistently overlooked by gym users in favor of trendy mat-based exercises which do little to stimulate anything other than the abdominal muscles. You see, developing a strong core does not mean simply blasting your abs with thousands of crunches. The core is made up of muscles which surround the spine from front to back, therefore it would be very foolish to only focusing on the front ones, right?

A recent study in the UK, which was then published by the Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research in 2011, directly compared barbell front squats to the superman exercise to see which returned the greatest strength improvements. The superman is among the elite core strength moves prescribed by most personal trainers and fitness instructors, so was a great fit for this particular case study.

Both exercises are great for developing core ability, but front squats actually recruited 5% more muscle activation in the erector spinae than the superman on a swiss ball.

Furthermore, this finding occurred using an empty bar in a bid to keep things fair against a body weight exercise. As more weight was added to the front squat the gains got greater and greater. While adding resistance to a body weight move can be tricky, with a front squat it is as simple as loading more plates on to your barbell.

By hitting the erector spinae muscles very hard, you will build a very strong and tight midsection without needing to do countless crunches.

Do not be fooled by fitness fads and trends, which have seen terms like 'functional fitness' and 'core strength' conjure up images of people doing push-ups in parks, holding yoga moves like the plank or buying expensive suspension trainers to exercise while hanging from trees. Sometimes, the oldest tricks in the book are still the most effective and true success comes from learning how to marry those old principles to some of the new developments which have also stood the scientific test, such as high intensity interval training.

Overall, the best core exercise is going to change upon personal preference, of course. However, if you like to base your training on the latest scientific studies then front squats should become an integral part of your leg training program.

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