Training the "Core"

In my own experience, a lot people have similar goals in mind when they join a gym or hire a trainer. They want to look better and feel better about themselves. As we all know, one muscle in particular is often displayed as a sign of fitness superiority… rectus abdominis better known as: abs, 6 pack, etc etc. But, there is much more that goes into having a solid core than a 6-pack. Many people strive to attain this look in their work outs, but often do not succeed because there is a misnomer in the community that people continue to fall for, and that is the more isolated core work you do the stronger and leaner you’ll get. However, research has proven time and time again this modality of training is...eye wash. The term “core” is a relative term and really can be placed on any body part, so I will use “trunk” when referencing the muscles associated with trunk movement.  

Firstly, you cannot target fat areas with exercises, that is not how the process works. Fat is an energy source stored in the body. It is accumulated when our caloric consumption exceeds our caloric expenditure. So, when someone does crunches, they are not targeting belly fat, and belly fat does not magically turn into muscle. The muscle is there currently, and has always been there (unless there’s a problem), it is just covered by a layer of stored energy. In order to remove these excess energy stores, you must burn off the energy! This is accomplished by doing a healthy mixture of activities, and the more of the body that is involved in the activity, the more energy you’re burning (for the most part). As we have discussed previously, there is a ton of variables that will decide how much energy will be burned in the activity.

Secondly, completing isolated trunk movements is nowhere near as beneficial as completing externally loaded, total body movements that teach the body to work in unison. With that being said, I do use isolated trunk movements in my “trunk and spine” warm up before lifts. I do this to “turn on” smaller muscle groups, work in different planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and transverse), and prepare the body for the real work of the day in an unloaded fashion. For example, the deadlift is a total body movement that requires massive amounts of trunk strength from the entire system to prevent unwarranted flexion of the trunk. Before I attempt this exercise, I will complete a circuit that mimics the requirements of a deadlift and promoting rigidity of the trunk, but I will be on the ground which is a regressed position. It gives the body an opportunity to wake up before asking it to accomplish a heavy task such as the deadlift. The reason I use isolated trunk movements is to prepare the body for the focus of the day, while others will dedicate a whole work out (ab day) when in actuality they can spend their time more efficiently completing total body movements like a squat, lunge, deadlift, or step up.

Crunches, planks, and the ab wheel all have their place and can be challenging to perform! But, if the goal of your program is to actually develop trunk strength and lose fat, those exercises do not hold a candle to total body movements mentioned previously. Plus, in every exercise there is a way to get the trunk more involved. Shifting from bilateral exercise to unilateral exercises to narrow your base of support, and uneven loading of movements will place a greater demand on the trunk musculature. Isolated trunk exercises have a place in my programming, and they should in yours as well, but they should not be the focus of a session… unless you’re coming back from injury, then that is a whole other can of worms.

-Thank you for your time! If you have any questions please let us know!

Coach Nate Garcia 


Instagram: tp_strength

The Importance of Skill Levels

This may seem like an obvious title, of course skill level matters in anything we do in life. Do you expect the same work output from a seasoned professional compared to the wide-eyed intern? The world in the weightroom is no different. As I scroll through social media, an obvious title considering skill level is often neglected when training people. Too often are people thrown in the fire and expected to perform without a negative consequence, and if the individual happens to fail they are often labeled weak, and/or lazy. This is not the case for most situations, and the actual cause for failure is a poorly executed program that failed to be modified to the individuals needs. 

I want to exclude military/special forces training right now. I do not have any experience working with armed forces, and the purpose of their training is to weed out people in order to find the elite of the elite individuals. In my line of work, I am not trying to weed anyone out of the program. The goal for the population I most often work with is to get them to a baseline of performance in order to better prepare them for the rigors of their sport, and future training. With that being said, the population I most commonly work with is the novice population, whether they are young athletes, or general population groups that haven’t spent a lot of time training. 

The phrase “baseline of performance” can be generic, but I believe every coach should attain to get their clients to their baseline before creating a more specific program can be implemented. For example, if an athlete struggles control their landing from a jump I am not going to demand them to land a jump and immediately perform second jump. They do not yet possess the ability to efficiently absorb force from the ground, which means they would not be able to redistribute that force in any controlled manner. There are certain thresholds that individuals must cross before reaching that next level of training. Once they check these boxes, I can confidently increase intensity, variability, etc. 

In the beginning, adaptation is almost guaranteed. Taking someone from 0, and performing any training, you will see great improvements almost immediately across all areas of ability. After a few years of consistent training, those big jumps of improvements have disappeared and one must be particular with their variables in order to accomplish their goals. Accumulating 10+ years of training and so on, the improvements become dependent on a person's ability to plan their variables appropriately to peak for performance, and continually push past their current ceiling. The focus shifts from generic capabilities to emphasizing exactly what the client needs in order to get the best possible performance. 

Be careful scarrowing the internet, looking for new methods of training for you or your clients to perform. One, you don’t know the context of the content unless you communicate with the creator of the content; only then can you pass judgement of the content. Two, know how to dissect what you are looking at in order to decide whether or not you should include the modality, or some variation of it in your training. Three, know the current status of the client being trained! No one should get hurt when training, so when creating a program for anyone, take into consideration these three principles and disaster will be avoided. 

Thank you for your time! If you have any questions, please reach out to us!

Instagram: tp_strength (Coach Nate)

Phone: 914-486-7678