By Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.

A well-balanced core fitness program should begin with strength (resistance) training for numerous reasons. But let’s review the muscles that make up one’s core. The core musculature is not just your trunk, but your lower back (erector spinae), hips (pelvic), buttocks (gluteal), and stomach (abdominal) muscles. A strong core can assist in maintaining good posture as you sit, stand, walk, or pretty much any activities you currently enjoy. These muscles stabilize the body so you can engage in physical activities without pain. In other words, strengthening your core can prevent back and neck pain resulting from weak muscles and poor posture.
Senior participants in our machine-based strength training classes are well prepared to integrate traditional core exercises that require appropriate strength and coordination. For example, core exercises like bridges, sit-ups, Swiss ball, pushups, and planks cohesively engage these groups of muscles. Hence, initially performing strength exercises help to avoid injury. Additionally, resistance training combined with core exercises increases general overall health.
Build a strong core foundation
Step one to building a strong core is to strength-train all your major muscle groups of both the upper and lower body, which absolutely include the muscles mentioned above. For example, machine-based exercises such as the hip abductor/adductor strengthen the (pelvic) hip, and buttock (gluteal), the low back extension strengthens the erector spinae (low back), and the abdominal curl strengthens the stomach (abdominal) muscles. When these fundamental strengthening exercises are mastered by our seniors, then core stabilization exercises performed in a coordinated manner are safely and effectively incorporated to further stabilize and strengthen the underlying muscles of the core.
Pointers to develop your core
Under the expert guidance and supervision of nationally certified personal trainers:

  • Join a structured, comprehensive resistance training program consisting of stretching, cardiovascular, functional movement, and balance exercises, all of which help relieve pain, improve strength, endurance, flexibility, posture, and your core.
  • When performing strength training on machine-based equipment (leg extension, leg curl, leg press, abdominal curl, rotary torso, low back extension, chest press, compound row, shoulder press, lat pulldown, biceps curl, triceps extension), use proper body mechanics and alignment required for optimal results. Do each exercise using slow, controlled movement speeds through a full pain-free range of movement. Keep eyes forward, shoulders relaxed, and abdominals contracted. Perform one set of 8 to 12 repetitions to temporary muscle fatigue, and increase weight load by five percent once the final repetition is completed in good form.
  • When performing traditional core exercises using your own body weight, proper form and technique is equally important to receive maximum benefits. Execute core exercises with neutral back (maintain normal curve), hips in line with spine (keep hips from sinking toward floor), knees, shoulders, and abdominals tight (contracted), gaze forward with head, neck, and shoulders relaxed.
    Build a strong core at Quincy College’s Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health, and Fitness strength, endurance, flexibility, and functional training, Presidents Place, 1250 Hancock St. Call 617-405-5978 to book a tour or try a class. Street parking and a parking garage are available.

About the Author: Rita La Rosa Loud holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology with additional education in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training. She is NASM Certified and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than 35 years. She is also an author and writes
fitness-related articles for various publications. Currently, she is a fitness researcher and directs the Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. Center for Health and Fitness at Quincy College. She can be reached at 617-405-5978.