Core and balance training is certainly nothing new; physical therapists and athletic trainers have used core training techniques for years. But in recent years, core training has moved from the physical therapist’s office to the gym, with everyone from young athletes to balance-challenged seniors hopping on this training bandwagon, and for good reason.
We now know that a strong core (those muscles in the trunk of our bodies that supply our bodies with a base of support) helps the body achieve better balance. Balance is achieved when our body’s center of gravity is maintained within its base of support. We utilize our core muscles every day, and any type of physical or athletic activity relies on them. Gaining core strength increases the stability of our pelvis and spine, which makes doing virtually anything easier —from walking up a set of stairs or dribbling a basketball down a court, to strength training exercises using free weights.
For example, athletes often incorporate core and balance training into their training program, while seniors engage in core exercises as a way to increase their balance, maintain and increase their strength, and prevent falls.
The Benefits of Core and Balance Training
As a personal trainer, you will likely incorporate core and balance training in the majority of your clients’ training programs. And for many clients, core and balance training may be their primary focus. That’s good for you as a core and balance personal training expert.
Although core and balance training has become a fitness trend in health clubs and personal training studios throughout the U.S., exercises that focus on the core will never go out of style, and here’s why:
- A strong core reduces back pain: Stronger core muscles help you maintain a good posture and reduce strain on your spine. Weak core muscles often result in a loss of the ideal lumbar curve and a swayback posture, both of which set you up for injury and pain.
- A strong core improves athletic performance: Your core muscles are designed to stabilize everything from your spine and pelvis to your neck and shoulders. This means a strong core is powerful, and a powerful core allows you to transfer power to your arms and legs. In other words, all of your body’s power movements originate from the center of your body, so in order to produce the rapid muscle contractions of your arms and legs needed to achieve athletic performance, a solid and stable core is required.
- A strong core improves balance: The biggest benefit of core training is the development of functional fitness, the ability to perform everyday activities. A strong core helps correct postural imbalances, thereby reducing injury due to falls and reducing the incidence of injury when engaged in physical activities.
What is the Core?
When the muscles of the core contract, they stabilize the spine, the pelvis, and the shoulder girdle, thereby creating a solid base of support and allowing for the generation of powerful movement of the extremities.
Although experts may not agree completely on which muscles make up the body’s core, in general, core muscles are identified as including:
- Erector spinae – This group of three muscles run from the neck to the lower back.
- External obliques: These muscles are located on the side and front of the abdomen.
- Gluteus maximus: These muscles are located on the back of the hip and the upper thighs.
- Gluteus medius and minimus: These muscles are located on the sides of the hips.
- Hip abductors: These muscles are located at the middle thigh.
- Hip flexors: These muscles are located in front of the pelvis and down the upper thigh.
- Internal obliques: These muscles are located under the external obliques and run in the opposite direction.
- Multifidus: These muscles are located along the vertebral column, allowing the spine to extend and rotate.
- Rectus abdominis – Also known as the “six pack,” this group of muscles is located in the front of the abdomen.
- Transverse abdominis: These muscles are the deepest of the abdominal muscles, wrapping around the spine to offer it protection and stability.
Exercises That Train the Core
As a core and balance training expert, you will have a long list of effective exercises and movements at your disposal for your personal training clients. Sure, you will likely incorporate some of the most conventional exercises, like crunches and sit-ups, but you understand that in order to build your clients’ core you will need to exercise a host of muscles that run from the thighs to the hips and to the shoulders.
In other words, the core conditioning personal training programs you design and implement will target all of the muscles groups of the core. Effective core exercises are most effective when they engage many muscles throughout the torso.
Many effective core exercises will be basic, bodyweight exercises, such as:
- Plank exercise
- Basic push-up
- Knee raise
- Back bridge
- Hip lift
- Oblique twist
- Plank (on a balance ball)
- Lunge and twist
- Pilates and yoga poses and movements
You may also find that core and balance exercise personal training programs are complemented with equipment, such as:
- Stability ball
- Kettle ball
- Medicine ball
- Dumb bells
How to Become a Core and Balance Specialty Trainer
To become a personal trainer who specializes in core and balance training, you will need to complete an educational program, which often means an associate or bachelor’s degree in personal training or a subject related to personal training, such as:
- Exercise science
- Exercise physiology
- Sports medicine
These programs are distinctly similar, as they consist of the study of human movement, including the physiological and functional adaptations to movement, as well as fitness and wellness assessment, rehabilitation, and nutrition. As such, coursework in a personal training related program includes:
- Essentials of fitness assessment
- Physiology of exercise
- Special populations: fitness prescription
- First aid and CPR
- Medical terminology
- Ethical issues in healthcare
In addition to an associate or bachelor degree in a field related to personal training, your educational preparation will likely include professional certification. Although voluntary, many personal trainers pursue professional certification, both for professional achievement and to meet employment requirements.
In addition to general professional certification in personal training, as a core and balance expert you will also likely want to pursue professional certification in this personal training specialty. Some of the organizations that offer core and balance training certification include:
- FiTOUR, Core and Functional Training Certification
- International Sport and Fitness Trainers Association, BOSU Balance Specialist Certification
- American Council on Exercise (ACE), Functional Training Certification
- National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association, Core Conditioning Specialist