Travelle Gaines has trained hundreds of elite athletes, including many current NFL stars. He's worked out Reggie Bush and Chris Johnson, to name just two.
Start asking Gaines what kind of impact core strength has on athletic performance, and he doesn't even let you finish the question.
"It's the number one factor," he says. "If your core isn't tightly put together, then nothing else is aligned."
More: 5 Tips to Strengthen Your Core
Core exercises are often done by Everyday Joe as a means to a sexy six-pack. But strong abs are so much more important than that—and accordingly, must be a centerpiece of your training routine no matter how quick your workouts need to be.
Asked just how much core work Gaines does with NFL players—considered by many to be the top athletes in the world—and he doesn't hesitate.
"A lot," Gaines says. "Every day, we do a whole section of core training, and we have a different core exercise between every other single exercise."
That's not a bad idea. Just finished up your leg extensions? Drop down and do 50 crunches before moving on to your next lift. Waiting for the incline press seat to open up? Do a 30-second plank to pass the time.
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One simple way Gaines adds core to his clients' workouts is by simply making their bodies work a little harder during the course of their other lifts.
Gaines uses stability pads with his clients, which forces athletes to use their core to stay balanced while doing a lift. If you don't have a stability pad, simply do exercises—say, dumbbell curls—standing on one leg. The act of trying to stay balanced on that leg works the core strength substantially.
Killing two muscle groups with one lift is great for time-crunched athletes. Just make sure your core is one of them—your whole body will thank you.
If you want to look good, core training is important. If you want to perform better athletically, core training is a must.
"If your pillar isn't intact," Gaines says, "everything else will be off-balance."
More: 3 Killer Core Exercises
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