Hope you are well and your personal fitness crusade is going well!
I’d like to take a few words to discuss a fundamental element of overall fitness…and sadly an often overlooked and misunderstood one!
One of the most common things I hear from Bootcamp clients, Kick-boxing clients, 1-2-1 clients, and many others is this: “I don’t really know what you mean when you say core”.
It is very easy as a Trainer to forget that most people have no clue what we mean by ‘core’, or how to ‘engage’ their core muscles correctly.
Okay, so I’ve given you a clue there…
When we Trainers refer to your ‘core’, we are referring to all the muscles that surround your internal organs .i.e. belly, lower back, and sides of your torso. Your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles also contribute to core function if utilised correctly.
These muscles perform a few key functions:
A) they enable us to stand upright! Without them our spines would not be able to support our upper body
B) they form a kind of net, which holds our internal organs in place.
C) they give our bodies the ability to bend and twist in a number of complex ways, as they contract and pull on bone attachments.
D) they play a part in breathing: particularly the diaphragm, which forms part of the IAP (more on this in a mo!)
E) they enable us to lift weight. Without them we’d be dragging our fists along the ground all the time, and therefore our dumbbells too!
F) pelvic floor muscles prevent us from wetting ourselves constantly!
Okay, so maybe none of this makes any sense, and maybe it does. The main thing here is that you understand how these muscles can help you when it comes down to exercising.
Most core muscle function is automatic (meaning you don‘t choose for it to happen, it just does.)
But there is something you can do to improve performance during exercise. And that is, Engage Your Core…
How to engage your core
1. Tense/activate your core muscles (whilst still being able to breathe!!) You need to engage your core so that all the way around from front to back, you can feel your muscles squeezing inwards. It’s almost like breathing in or ‘sucking in’ and holding your breath…….only difference is that you shouldn’t be holding your breath! Have ago!
Now tense your pelvic floor, as if you are trying not to go to the toilet!
If you now take a deep breath and hold it in, you will likely feel a sensation of pressure building in your head!
This is what we call Intra Abdominal Pressure.
Note: you should NOT hold your breath during exercises, as this pressure ultimately puts pressure on your heart and drives blood to your head (which you don‘t want!); hence breath out as you perform all resistance movements to reduce this pressure!
I usually explain the benefits of this pressure, and therefore the benefits of engaging your core in the following way: “Imagine standing on a concrete floor, or a brick (you feel pretty stable, right?). Then imagine standing on a bouncy castle, or on a pile of pillows (feeling a bit unbalanced now, right?).”
Essentially this is what it’s all about. If you expect to lift heavy weights, or even lighter weights completely safely, then you need to be lifting from the solid base; the concrete floor. If you lift on the soft, unstable surface; the bouncy castle, you will be very unbalanced and unable to lift weight in a controlled manner.
An ‘engaged’ core will also prevent you from arching your back forwards or backwards during complex exercises, and save you from damaging your spine. Another bonus!
Developing our core strength therefore, also allows us to develop our upper body strength more effectively.
If your core can hold it then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be clean & pressing substantially more weight very soon!
But don’t take MY word for it! Give it a go yourself and you’ll soon see the difference!
Have a great day guys.