Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Attacking The ‘Core’ Issue -- Part I

Ah the core, a major topic of debate for trainers and strength and conditioning coaches alike.
We've been coerced to think that those ‘flat abs’ are your core and that doing 1000 crunches or sit-ups will help you achieve them.

First, Let’s Be Clear About What Exactly The Core Includes

The core or torso is everything from the knees to the shoulders including the abdominal wall, rectus abdominus, internal/external obliques, pelvic floor, and back extensors. Along with additional muscles, it helps to think of the spine, hips, and shoulders as one single unit.

When one part of the body moves, the whole body responds and ground reactive forces are transferred through levers via the torso and back out.

Benefits of Core Training, There’s Lots!

The benefit of core training goes far beyond a nice looking midsection. Strong core muscles are essential for almost everything we do. They help transfer power from the lower to the upper body, keep us upright, and help to improve posture. For you lifters, core training can even help you lift better.  

What The Experts Are Saying!

Those Glutes, They’re Involved Too

Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics from the University of Waterloo, wants people to also think about, what he coins, ‘gluteal amnesia’. He talks about the fact that a large percentage of people spend their day in a seated position. This places their hip flexors in a constantly shortened position.

McGill goes on to say that your gluteus maximus is your primary hip extensor so if it is inhibited, the hamstring group and adductor magnus then become your primary hip extensor which can lead to overuse injuries overtime.

Because of this, McGill believes that it’s very important to train gluteal activation as part of your warm up. He also believes that people should work to release their hip flexors to address the imbalance.

You Don’t Even Have To Be On The Floor

Head strength and conditioning coach, Todd Wright, for the University of Texas men’s basketball program, preaches Vertical Core Training. None of his clients even touch the floor.

Likewise, Josh Ford (@jcdford), one of the head strength and conditioning coaches at McMaster, thinks in a similar way. He had this to say about Vertical Core Training. “It’s important that we consider the interconnectedness of the human body when thinking about torso training”. “We must seek authentic movement, and particularly with vertical core training, we must ensure our feet are in contact with the ground in order to provide feedback to our pelvis and in turn our rib cage”. “This will allow us to be challenged in a realistic environment”, he adds.

Don’t Forget About The Lumbar Spine

Physical Therapist Shirley Sahrmann adds her two cents about the importance of lumbar spine stability. “The ligaments of the lumbar spine help stabilize the spinal column, playing an important role in resisting the forces associated with flexion, rotation and posterior shear”, Sahrmann says.

We’ll touch more on lumbar spine stability in part II!

So keep on going with that core training and remember that it incorporates more than just your anterior core! 

Want great core training exercises? Stay tuned for Attacking The Core Part II!


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