“Coach, can I get something extra for my abs?” “Para verano” — we used to say to our athletes in Spain and give some hardcore exercises.
We all want the feeling that we did something yesterday. We all want to be little bit tired or even little sore the next day. Maybe some of you LOVE being sore and not being able to get-up from your bed is the best feeling ever.
Whoever you are, have you noticed that it is hard to make your core sore?? Especially if you are the ‘Functional guy’.
I am glad you asked. I will do my best to explain it very briefly without getting into too much detail.
First of all, soreness is normal. Everyone, more or less, gets sore and these factors usually impact soreness the most:
1.Working out for the first time or for the first time in a long time; 2.Increasing intensity (weight, speed, reps, sets); 3.Adding new movements/exercises in your program.
However, “we do these changes to all muscle groups but the core still is the the least sore ” — says Functional guy while most of one’s clients crave to feel little bit of soreness in their ABS.
Let’s look more closely.
As you can see bellow, the anatomy of core is unique. It looks like it formed out of layers of muscles that surround our organs.
Due to this unique anatomy, the core is utilized more for the transfer of energy/force rather than production. These layers consist of few muscle fibers (NOTE: muscle fibers consists of sarcomeres that perform movements), making the core inefficient to move.
However, if we would look at other muscles, such as the anatomy of tight muscles, we see exactly the opposite.
We see thick muscles with loads of muscle fibers. These muscles are great at producing force and performing movements.
2. How do we train muscles?
There are 3 different muscle contractions: eccentric, concentric, isometric.
When performing a squat, the descending movement is eccentric contraction, standing up would be concentric. If you stop during the squat, this would be considered an isometric contraction.
So based on muscle’s contractions the most damaging (the biggest producer of soreness) is eccentric, followed by concentric contraction while after isometric training you will be the least sore.
The “Functional guy” might be having an A-HA moment where one realizes that he/she trains core mostly in isometric fashion, such as, planks, dead-bugs, bird-dogs, chops & lifts etc. This is why our core does not really feel sore after training.
It is very important to train core in isometric fashion not only because of its anatomy but also because in most activities the spine is supposed to be straight and avoid movement (NOTE: moving at spine usually is considered as energy leak). This means that torso musculature has to contract isometrically in order to prevent from movement in spine.
We want to keep spine straight when we squat or hinge; split squat or lunge; push or press, etc. Even when we walk or run we do not want to have excessive movement in the torso.
This would be functional training for core. Less risk for injury and more benefits for performance, whether your performance is on the court or in daily life activities.
However, if you are a soreness-chaser you will most likely find some benefit in adding some flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation of torso (this is exactly what I would NOT recommend). This will add other types of contractions (concentric and eccentric) to your core musculature and will bring some soreness.
So there are no exercises for “Functional guy” that would make soreness?
To summarize, do not chase soreness. It does not equal gains or improvements in performance.