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With more than 20 years of experience as a coach in the CEEC Toomas Paju told us more about what the core muscles are, when to start training them, the role of the core muscles in the development of the human body, how to train the core muscles and how important the core muscles are for athletes.

Tom, you've been a coach for over 20 years. How important do you think deep muscle training is?

The main function of the core muscles (corset muscles) is to support the pelvis, spine and shoulder girdle region and stabilise the trunk. With trained core muscles, the risk of excessive muscle tension and injury is significantly reduced as the professional training load increases.

Strong core muscles are a major contributor to the performance of basic exercises such as squats, presses and deadlifts in the gym. In addition, the core muscles ensure better balance and overall resistance to greater training difficulties.

In short deep muscle training as a general body workout, indispensable for building core strength and overall physical fitness and for developing professional performance at higher training loads.

Tell us a little bit about what these deep muscles actually are and what function do they have?

The core muscles include the back muscles, the abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm.

The deep muscles are small muscles under big muscles. Thanks to their support in the pelvic girdle, spine and shoulder girdle, we can stand up and walk around. They are the foundation for speed, strength, endurance, load tolerance and a beautiful body..

At what age should you start deep muscle training and why?

The deep muscles are body stabilising and the muscles that mobilise the body. Deep muscle training can start at an early age. Of course, it all depends on the physical development of the individual, but you can usually start training your core muscles as early as 6-7 years old. You start with the 'lighter' exercises and gradually move up to the harder exercises.

What is the role of the deep muscles in a child's development and why should the to develop deep muscles from a young age/child?

Exercising the core muscles, along with all the other muscle groups, plays a major role in the development of a child's group. The core muscles are also the foundation of speed, strength, endurance and resistance to stress.

Early training of the core muscles is important for children to develop the following:

- Improve coordination and motor skills

- Increase the activation of motor units

- Contribute to neutral adaptation

Is deep muscle training only important for elite athletes or also for amateur athletes?

Training the core muscles is essential for both amateur and elite athletes to avoid injury.

Well-trained core muscles help both top athletes and recreational users to withstand high loads, fast movements and heavy lifts. much lower risk of injury.

What is the impact of deep muscle training/under-training on health and well-being?

All the stabilising spherical muscles ensure that the body has the correct shape and load-bearing capacity. Muscle tone and a balanced workout are essential for injury prevention. Training them is particularly important for people with sedentary jobs., because well-toned core muscles help prevent back problems and prevent fatigue from prolonged walking and standing.

How to train your core muscles?

As a rule, most movements start with activation of the core muscles, followed by activation of large muscle groups.

Since the muscles are largely governed by an autonomic (involuntary) nervous system, they are trained using a lot of conditions of unstable equilibrium, which force the necessary muscles to activate automatically. I suggest you have a look at my training videos - your own bodyweight exercises, on the balance ball workouts and also workouts with training wheels.

Exercising the core muscles with an exercise ball

According to statistics, nearly 80% people suffer from back problems. How are deep muscles involved?

Back pain and discomfort can be caused by. weak deep muscles. It is therefore for people with back problems, it is very important to exercise the deep muscles.. Well-toned core muscles help prevent back problems.

Tom, when did you realise that deep muscle training is crucial?

I started playing basketball when I was 7. My trainer paid a lot of attention to deep muscle training - before every training session we had a 15-minute strength training block, where half of the time was spent on deep muscle training.

When I went to TSIK in 7th grade, everything continued along the same lines, but now on a much more professional level. Later on in my athletic career, all the coaches also paid a lot of attention to deep muscle training. For example, at TSIK, we had bodyweight training for all muscle groups twice a week from the 9th grade onwards, with a very strong emphasis on the core muscles. The workouts lasted 90 minutes, so it was very hard work.

Later in his professional career, he added 3 more gym workouts and 2 bodyweight workouts. Stretching exercises were also very important, which we did every evening after the professional training.

Probably all this has left me unaware of the the importance of deep muscle training. I know from my own experience how important this is. If an athlete hasn't been involved in deep muscle training until junior age, there is no point in starting gym training because they simply won't be able to lift weights. Stretching exercises are at least as important.

How much of a focus do you put on building training sessions for deep muscular athletes?

In recent years, I have had 3 gym sessions a week with professional swimmers, and 1 indoor workout with your own body weight, balance balls, exercise balls, TRX, top balls and ropes. In addition, one proper stretching workout per week.

My understanding is that only varied training to ensure good physical development.     

Deep muscle training with balance ball

How many times a week and at what volume should I exercise my core muscles?

The core muscles are trained in conjunction with other muscle groups. The more different training tools, the better the result. In addition to specialised training, I would recommend the following:

- Up to 12 years old you could train all muscle groups 1-2 times a week and the workouts should last 30-60 minutes, progressively increasing the difficulty of the exercises. One full-body stretching complex per week.

- 14 years and older could be 2-3 times a week in addition to specialised training. One full-body stretching complex per week.

- Junior you could do two bodyweight workouts a week, two gym workouts and one full-body stretching workout a week. You could also use an approach where one day is lower body stretches and the other day upper body stretches. The duration of the workouts is 60 minutes

Stretching can be done using an approach where one day of lower body stretches and day two upper body stretches.

Can you give examples of elite athletes who have put a lot of emphasis on deep muscle training? Who should we take a lead from?

Here are a few athletes who have swum either Estonian or world records and who I would definitely recommend to follow their example:

- Andriy Govorov - 1.90m ; 90kg (50 butterflies MR 22,27)

- Caeleb Dressel - 1.91m ; 90kg (100 butterflies MR 49,50)

- Daniel Zaitsev - 1.84m ; 84kg

- Adam Peaty - 1.91m ; 96kg (50 breaststroke MR 25,95; 100m breaststroke MR 56,88)

- Anton Chupkov - 1.88m ; 78kg (200 breaststroke MR 2.06,12 )

- Martin Allikvee - 1.82m ; 82kg

- Ryan Lochte - 1.88m ; 88kg (200 complex MR 1.54,00 )

- Michael Phelps - 1.93m ; 90kg (400 complex MR 4.03,84 )

- Sarah Sjöström - 1.82 ; 76kg (50 free MR 23,27; 100 free MR 51.71; 50 lib MR 24.43; 100 lib MR 55.48 )

All of the world's top 50 swimmers worked hard on their body weight and core muscles when they were young.

Of course, everyone needs to exercise the core muscles, but why is it important for swimming?

The deep muscles fix the swimmers' body position in the water. The better the body position, the greater the speed.

The stability of the trunk allows mobility of other parts of the body.

The better the quality of trunk control, the better the quality of weight transfer from one support point to another and the better the quality of limb movement.

Strong core muscles are needed to distribute the force between the upper and lower body during swimming.

We've talked a lot about the importance of training the core muscles when you're young and growing up, but is it worth training them as an adult?

Core muscles need to be trained at all ages. I currently go to the gym 4 times a week, and every time I do, I make sure to train my core muscles. The older a person gets, the more important deep muscle toning becomes for their quality of life.

What daily tips do you recommend for deep muscle training?

One very good tip is to buy yourself balance ball and sit on it at home instead of a chair. Whether you're eating, watching TV, reading, studying or working, it's always worth sitting on a balance ball.


Video workouts for deep muscle training

To join Toomas' deep muscle training click here SIIA.