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The Core: Unleash Your Inner Caveman
By: Aaron Potts

An alternative name for this article could have been, 'How to undo Generations worth of Damage Caused by sitting on our Backsides and Letting Machines Teach us Not to Stand up Straight'.

That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue though, does it?

The point is the same, however. Before we were even able to stand fully erect we could literally fight for our right to live on a daily basis. Now, we are again barely standing up straight due to bad posture and bad habits, but we can hardly walk across town without pulling a muscle or throwing our back out!

Why? We are weak - from the inside out! In today's image conscious society, we are so concerned with the way we look that we ignore the fact that we are falling apart from the inside. For lack of a better term, we are "rotten to the core"!

What IS "the core"? Why does everyone keep talking about training 'the core"? What does any of this have to do with cavemen?

Basically, the idea here is that there was a time in human evolution when we literally had to fight to survive. Although actual battle was certainly part of life back in the Stone Age, we are also talking about the day to day struggle that was involved in just making it to see another sunset!

Walking, running, climbing, throwing, pushing, pulling, balancing, lifting, pressing - the list goes on and on. These activities were all a daily part of life way back when the human body was being "programmed".

Compare that to the present day activity level of an average person in a civilized culture, and what do you get? A MAJOR difference between the way we were built and the way we are actually called upon to perform! If you took your average office worker in 2005 and threw them back in time to a point when fur was "in", they probably wouldn't last for very long.

Is it wrong that modern technology has made our lives so easy? Probably not - depending on who you ask. However, is it wrong that we don't keep our bodies as strong and vital as we used to HAVE to keep them? YES!

Just because you CAN sit down all day, and just because you CAN eat 1,000 calories in less than 20 minutes, and just because you CAN pay someone else to mow your lawn doesn't mean that you SHOULD do those things.

Allowing our easy lives to make us weak is OUR fault. It's not your boss at work who tells you that you can't exercise when you aren't pulling desk time. It's not your mother or father who is making you eat at fast food restaurants every day. It's not your car that is making you drive it mile to the store instead of just walking.

It's YOUR fault. It's all YOUR fault. Does that sound harsh? That's too bad, because it's the truth and you know it. Even people who are paralyzed from the waist down can get plenty of exercise if they train hard enough. Even people who don't know a barbell squat from a bench press can learn if they really try to. Even "corporate Americans" who work 12-hour days can get some exercise and eat right if they truly make an effort.

So what can you do to be more in touch with the "programmed" caveman inside of you? Simple. Get out there and make an effort! Get up off your backside, stop making excuses, and MOVE. Start from the inside, though - with the Core.

What is meant by "the core" is the successful inner teamwork of many systems in your body, all of them originating at center mass - the torso area. We are talking about the muscles of your lower back and spine, the Transverse Abdominis muscle behind your "six-pack", the obliques and other supporting muscles, the circulatory and neurological systems that power these muscles with fuel and instructions, and many more muscles and tissues that all work together as a unit, collectively being called "the core".

Why does any of this matter to you? After all, it's only what you look like from the outside that matters, right. Wrong! Your body's core is like a power plant. It fuels and controls everything that you do. From moving nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to your extremities, to the very network of neurological pathways that control your arms and your legs - all of this starts at the core.

All of your vital organs and systems are located in the core area. Your heart, lungs, spine, stomach, liver, kidneys - the list goes on. The only thing outside of your torso that you couldn't live without is your head. However, your head is directly connected to your spinal column, which is part of the core!

Part of having a strong core is that the actual muscles are thicker, stronger, and much more resistant to injury. If you have a weak core, you could give yourself a lifetime back injury just by picking up a box the wrong way! On the other hand, if your core muscles are strong and vital, you have a lot more "margin for error" when it comes to bending over, picking things up, keeping your balance, etc.

What about your posture? Posture is definitely controlled by a strong core. Would you think of having good posture as an important thing? You should! If not, let's take a secret shortcut to weight loss: Stand up straight and suck in your gut. Congratulations, you just lost 10 pounds!

Are you starting to see the point? It all starts at the core, so safeguarding the inner-workings of your body is as important as it gets.

There are many great exercises to work your core, but listing them all is beyond the scope of this article. The point that you should take home is that working your core should be an integral part of your life - even if you don't exercise on a regular basis. Even if you don't care about weight loss or physical appearance, safeguard your LIFE by having a strong core!

Here are some resources where you can learn about core exercises:

http://exercise.about.com/cs/abs/l/bl_core.htm

Remember: Your core is your body's power plant. Keep YOUR body running at maximum power!

About the Author

Aaron Potts is the owner and creator of Fitness Destinations. Aaron's experience in the health and fitness industry includes one on one personal training in many different environments, maintenance of several health-related websites, and authoring of many fitness-related products for consumers and fitness professionals. http://www.fitnessdestinations.com/journal.html


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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape

 

Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.


Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
shocks.

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
speaking.

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
time.

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:
http://tinyurl.com/6c6kq
 

Dave Snape

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