By: Erin Bidlack, owner of Studio 573

Erin Bidlack shares her fitness method for improving core strength.

When it comes to fitness, having an idea of what areas you would like to improve and creating clearly defined goals based on that understanding is an important step in measuring your level of success.

Let’s talk about strength versus hypertrophy. What is the difference?

Strength is defined as the quality or state of being strong whereas hypertrophy refers to the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in the size of its cells — for our purposes, we’re talking about muscle size.

One of my favorite tools when working with clients is based on the NASM Optimum Performance Training. This is a great tool that illustrates the progression a client is taken through from increasing stability all the way through building power.

Just like you need to learn to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run, optimal stability and strength are necessary to reach your maximum power potential.

The base of the OPT model is stabilization. Stabilization occurs across all joints in the body, but for this article, I would like to focus on what is most important, and that’s core stabilization.

Most people think that, when referring to our core, we’re solely referring to the abdominal musculature. Not true! Back muscles, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles also play an important role in the stabilization of your core and, ultimately, strength and efficiency in all body movements.

Focusing on simple core stabilization movements such as planks,  side planks, crunches, and bridges are a very good start to increasing core stability, as they target all areas of your core. Start by measuring the length of time you can hold a plank or how many repetitions you can do in a specified amount of time and work to improve from there.

When you have dedicated the proper amount of time to building your core strength and endurance (ideally four to six weeks), your next step is to begin working in more hypertrophic exercises. You can do this by using medium to heavy weights at 75 to 85 percent effort at lower repetitions (between six and 12).

Slow the movement down, stay nice and controlled, and keep your core engaged. Ideally, you want to perform between three and five sets. Make sure you’re factoring in time for recovery and stretching.

The OPT model is an easy and achievable tool for anyone hoping to improve their overall fitness at a beginner level. Tracking your progress as you work your way up the steps is both an essential and rewarding experience and will help you continue to build on your overall fitness goals.