The true foundation of a personal training client’s fitness success is that their journey aligns concordantly with their level of fitness and progresses appropriately as they achieve set goals. Knowing the difference between core training and core strengthening is key to programming clients responsibly.
When it comes to core strength—arguably the foundation of the body’s overall strength—we as personal trainers can ensure such progress takes place by first evaluating their core functioning, and being certain that the exercises we program will be effective for the client’s current abilities.
For instance, if a 65-year-old woman, a career accountant who’s birthed four children interested in working with you explains that she has done some yoga over the years, but hasn’t followed a formal exercise program before, you wouldn’t want to start her on TRX plank-ups week one. Most of us know at least that much!
However, even putting her in a modified plank and dynamic bird dog may also be too advanced without first determining if your new client is truly “connected” to her deep core musculature at all. Jumping right to our core exercise go-to’s, even when they seem to be the simplest and most regressed versions of standard movements may cause us to overlook an inherent failure to activate the deep core muscles: the pelvic floor, the transverse abdominus (TVA), and the surrounding muscles that support the spine like the deep intrinsic back muscles, that are potentially underperforming—especially if someone is new to exercise later in life.
Further, some folks who report unexplained low back or abdominal pain tend to have inhibited core engagement, most likely due to a disruption in the way the brain communicates directly to the muscles. If this is the case, jumping right into a core strength routine will not only be ineffective but may result in more pain or injury to your client.