Say what? Yep, that's what I'm sayin'. Before anyone gets into a huff over this, I'll clarify that some people can certainly benefit from core-specific work. But, in general, I think targeting the core for most athletes is overrated.
It all started when I read an article focusing on Dan Martin, an once up-and-coming Irishman and superb climber racing on the Garmin professional cycling team. He was asked if he attributes a strong core to his climbing like a billy goat. His answer was, "No." In fact, he avoids working his core because he noticed when he did work it, his climbing prowess took a hit. It kept him from being fluid on his bike. Martin figured his core was naturally strong enough simply by the daily rigors of riding his bike.
Martin's reasoning made sense to me. Back as a swimmer, I scratched my head at all the ab work we did during our dryland exercises. Even at a young age, I wondered why completing roughly 400 turns per workout, which clearly targets the core, wasn't enough. So, flash forward to today, and I've decided to ignore my core and see what happens. Would I be OK, or would I start to fall apart during long or arduous rides? Would my climbing be better off or worse off? Would it be affected at all?
My answer came when I did my first-ever Pilates class. For those who have never tried Pilates, it's 60 minutes (in the case of this class) of core-specific torture. I felt burning in my abs like never before. When the class was done, my abs were 'wobbly', like any muscle group is after being worked overtime in the gym. I thought, "Oh, boy, when I wake up tomorrow, I'm not going to be able to move an inch I'll be so sore!" But, when I woke up, I was not stiff or sore in my core, very much to my surprise.
What I did find of value in the Pilates class is the focus on the glutes and hip flexors, two areas I know I need to strengthen to improve my pedaling efficiency. Those 2 areas turned out to be a bit stiff after the class, letting me know that they got a good workout in. I'll continue to go to Pilates to shore up those areas; the core will be worked as well, but I'd rather focus the hour on my weak areas if I had a choice.
My guess is I'm not alone here. I think many of us could spend our time more valuably, targeting areas of our bodies that are truly weak. IMO, we too easily buy in to the mantra of "strengthen your core and all will be well in the world."
Food for thought, if nothing else . . .