While core-specific exercises are among the most important ones you can do, they can feel like the exercise equivalent of a chore. I personally think of that part of my regimen as housekeeping–as in “just gotta take care of some housekeeping.” The way I see it, most people dread it, it has to be done on a routine basis, there’s always more that needs to be done, and you can never do too much of it….Housekeeping.
But, I’ve found ways to incorporate core work that make it much more palatable and even more useful to boot: I use it as my pre-workout warm up, my mid-workout breaks, and sometimes as my post-workout cool down.
Starting your session with dedicated core work is a great way to ease into your workout because it gets your heart rate going and, particularly beneficial, it “primes” your core to activate throughout the rest of your workout. This helps reinforce proper engrams (your body’s “computer programs” for movement, e.g. Abdominals First, Limbs Second) and makes sure your body doesn’t just perform but performs correctly. Beginning each workout that way is a little like hitting the home button on an iPhone–it resets your body back to its “start screen,” brings the focus back to its core functions and readies it for the next tasks.
I also like the idea of going back to core routines in the middle of workout sessions for essentially the same reasons. While it offers a relative rest, it keeps your heart rate more elevated than if you took an actual rest break; plus it keeps your core muscles primed for action. Remember, a lot of the key core muscles are phasic–i.e. have a natural tendency to slack off–so there’s no such thing as too often when it comes to reminding your body to use them.
TIP: For efficiency and greater functional benefit, use core exercises as your warm-up and as rest breaks throughout your workout.