Your core, the core of your body, the trunk, is formed of the abdominal muscles, sides of the abdomen, back, pelvis and diaphragm.
Understanding how to activate, or rather control, the core of your body is one of the most important steps in your development. THIS is the foundation of your body.
Why? Because movement comes from your core, thus controlling the core means you will have better control over your body.
It will be easier to think about tensing the abdominal muscles when you think about activating your core, it’s easier to visualise, feel and control. After a while you will be able to control other muscles of your core.
Once you manage to connect with your core and focusing on building strength in that area you will experience:
Core strength is the foundation for powerful, explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, or throwing.
2. Back health.
It is estimated that four out of every five adults (80%) will experience back pain at some stage in their life. Many of the back pain cases are mechanical, meaning they change with posture and level of activity. A strong core is essential to a healthy back that will carry your body throughout your life with little or no pain.
If you ever find yourself in a situation when your balance or stability is compromise a strong core will come to the rescue.
4. Reduce risk of injuries
Back pain, compromised stability, lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching, are all movements we do throughout our lives. A strong core will give you better chances of less injuries and living with less pain.
There is no doubt that having a strong core will enable you to build the lasting foundations required for a fit, healthy, strong and powerful body, but how do we work with it? How do we actively, or intentionally engage our core and jut wait for it to happen?
There are a few ways one can explain what “engaging your core” or “activate your core” means and how to achieve it.
Learning how to breathe, pulling your stomach muscles in is the first step towards learning how to activate your core muscles. As you breathe out your abdominal muscles pull in and the whole core activates, or tenses.
Do you have the Breathing Mastery chapter I share for free? If you don’t, click here to download it. It will explain everything in detail.
Not really punching, but imagining someone is trying to punch you in the stomach. What would you do? How would you react if you had to “receive” the punch?
You’d brace for the punch, trying to withstand the blow. You’d also notice when you brace for the punch you breath our slightly.
Sucking the stomach in
Sucking the stomach in is another way to describe the core activation process. However I am personally not happy with this description.
When you suck your stomach in you don’t necessarily tense your abdominal muscles, maybe just a little, but not enough.
Thus this is one way to do it, but not a way I’d do it.
Lying on the ground
Lie on the ground – preferably a hard, straight surface – face up, with your knee bent and feet flat on the ground.
Notice the natural curve in your lower back.
Now try to flatten your low back, touching the ground with that portion of your spine. You will notice that to do that you need to tense your abdominal muscles.
Four ways to activate or engage your core muscles. Every time you workout, lift your kids, your bag, carry groceries, remember to activate your core muscles.
Christmas is here so there’s a lot of food around, and drinks and, for some of us very little physical activity. It’s all awesome, this is what Christmas is for, to spend time with our family.
And you know what else holidays are good for? Keeping up with your training.
The usual excuses are related to work and time. Well, although you might work to prepare everything for Christmas, you are not going to the office.
The truth is that if you take a “break” for a few weeks your cardiovascular capacity with begin to drop, more than that and you will witness a decrease in strength and of course mobility and flexibility.
Besides feeling full and lethargic. So let’s not lose everything you have been working for over the past 12 months. Keep it where it is or even progress.
You can always, always make time for a 30 min run. There is time for what you want to do. You don’t want to exercise during holidays then you will not.
To help you I will share with you this video with a min full body exercise routine. Please watch and read the instructions before you begin so you know what you are supposed to do and not just throw some random exercises. I am not a fan of crunches but to make it easy for you there are crunches there:
Of course you can add to this routine and make it more interesting, for example you could:
sprint for 30 sec in between sets
run on the spot or jumping jacks between sets
stretch between sets, 30 sec (maybe stand in a box split, a high one, you don’t need to go very low)
use some weights
pull ups or chin ups
And much more. Get creative and remember safety first. Never go beyond your means and if you are in pain stop the exercise. If you are unsure please contact me asap.
I gave you the reasons why not to isolate and now I will give you some example of exercises to do, with videos and instructions.
I like exercises which work the whole body. Some of them emphasize a certain area more than others but then we balance it out with other exercises.
I also like exercises which challenge mobility and flexibility. Because to be ready for anything your body has to strong and flexible in the same time. Not excessively flexible, that’s not good either. There is a balance.
Your body is as strong as your weakest link, thus we have to think not only about the obvious muscles, such as thighs and biceps, but also about:
Foot muscles –balance exercises, very simple; get creative and think safety first
Glutes (butt muscles)– they are stabilizer muscles; strong butt muscles are important for hip stability and preventing lower back pain; practice squats
Can’t go all the way down? Place a book under your heels (a stick or stand on an incline with toes facing downhill) and practice until it gets easier. Then change it with a thinner book and so on until you do them all the way on flat ground.
Core – it’s called a core for a reason, that is where everything comes from (even hiccups); practice crawls (or alternative locomotion); they strengthen the core without compromising posture, straining next muscles and lower back and they are fun as well. Here’s the basic one to start with: The Panther Crawl
Upper body – lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, they are day to day movements; your body needs to be strong, in its natural, healthy and balanced state. Use a bar for this exercise (skip the balance part, just do the leg lifts). This exercise will work the core as well.
Flexibility and mobility – you have to have both; without mobility strength is useless; imagine slipping on ice and having no mobility or flexibility, your body will not be able to respond.
If you avoid isolation and practice complex movement such as crawling, running, jumping, squatting etc you develop the body as a whole. Isolate and you will probably miss the smaller stability muscles.
Definition: Isolation exercises are movements that involve one joint or one muscle group rather than multiple muscles and joints.
First of all, there is not real isolation. We must understand that the body is not made up of individual pieces, like a robot, but it is build and suppose to function as one whole unit.
If you tried to drive your car (which is designed to function with 4 wheels) on only one wheel what would happen? There is no balance, you can’t. If you train for it you might be able to, sure, but your car was designed to work on 4 wheels. Or driving it without the engine, no matter if everything else is perfect, your car will not go anywhere.
So why do you think that flipping a tire without using your hips (tire flipping doesn’t come from the shoulders), punching that bag without putting your body behind it (all the way from the back foot) or run without using your upper body (including your arms) as well, is the “correct” way to do things?
It might be fast, but the body is not designed to work like that. And that’s where many injuries come from.
There are instances when certain muscles become weak so we are advised to isolate and train that specific muscle. That’s not a bad thing of course.
But the question is why did that muscle weaken in the first place? Leaving aside situations such as fractures which lead to weaker muscles, muscle dystrophy, In many cases it is the incorrect use of the body.
If we don’t use the body how it was designed to function, as one whole unit, certain parts of the body will grow weaker.
Your body will always, always try to find ways to sabotage, to make it easier for itself.
Many people walk with lumbar lordosis (excessive inner lower back curvature). Why is it that we feel more comfortable doing that?
It is easier to just “sit” on the vertebrae, which just stack up and support the body as a pillar, than using the core muscles (the mid section of your body) to keep a correct posture. The body looks for finds ways to make it easier.
– weak core muscles – they don’t work anymore (which makes it more difficult to keep from curving the lower back)
– poor posture – as a result of weak core muscles and poor habits
– lower back pain – again core muscles
– shoulder pain – poor posture because of weak core muscles
– injuries from lifting and carrying – because of weak core
And the list can go on as the body is interconnected. You body is as strong as your weakest link.
The links I made here are just scratching the surface. There are other muscles which don’t work as they were designed to.
If every time we stand, walk and run we distribute more weight on the right side then that side will work more (and also wear out faster) while the left side will gradually grow weaker.
Again the body is supposed to work in balance and as a whole unit.
Strength vs technique
Using strength to flip a tire or do monkey bars is impressive. But it’s just the surface. We don’t see what actually happens with the shoulder, the deltoid muscles, scapula, shoulder joint.
There is a lot of tension and strain if we don’t put the body behind it: abdominal muscles, hips, legs (in tire flipping). You see this all the time, as so many of us focus on flipping many times and fast. We forget to actually pay attention to what we are doing.
Throughout the hundreds of articles I wrote there is a pattern, a common element. That is: Go Beyond The Surface.
Once you get it right they you can go for quantity and speed.
To truly be strong and powerful train and use your body as one whole unit.