I don’t think you can talk about core training enough. It provides the foundation for, well, just about anything involving movement. And as the old proverb goes, “you can’t build a house on a foundation of sand.”
Hence, let’s have a look at why we do what we do to train the core.
The Role of the Core
Primarily, the core’s function is to stabilise the spine. Yes, the muscles surrounding the spine are also responsible for flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation, but that’s not as important as their stability role.
To train for stability, little or no movement is involved. In other words, isometric holds are used.
The prone hold is the archetypal exercise when it comes to this stuff. The spine wants to extend and arch, and it’s the spinal flexors (the “abs”) that work hard to prevent arching.
Side prones train the obliques, low back and gluteal muscles in just the same way as the prone hold. It’s all about control and stability. Just remember that both sides need to be done!
Cobra holds and GHD extension holds develop the spinal extensors. The low back muiscles must hold tight to prevent your upper body crashing back to the floor. Training the spinal extensors becomes even more crucial when starting to squat and deadlift, as these muscles provide extra spinal stability in these lifts.
Last but not least, the dish hold. These introduce stability in a flexed spinal position, hence the “flatten your lower back to the floor” cue. While not a common position in lifting, it is extremely common in all things gymnastic, and serves to provide foundation level control for any gymnastic movement.
I hope that sheds a little more light on why we use these foundation isometric holds. Think of them as a building block to the more advanced lifting and gymnastic movements you’ll undoubtedly encounter!