Now I want you to be honest with me for a minute. How many of you originally started working out due to a dream of someday becoming the proud new owner and operator of a pristine 6-pack and chiseled core? Don’t act like the ABhancer above wasn’t ever a promising thought that crossed your mind (we have all thought it).
The countless videos, infomercials, magazine ads, and TV shows have all sensationalized the washboard physique and have created a culture of the ideal look. Marketing has done a great job of selling the “It only takes 6 minutes a day” concept but most of us who have either tried these methods in the past or have been working out for a while now know that this is false. It takes pure hard work day in and day out to for you to see gains in the midsection and the reality is that our diets for the most part control much of our aesthetic outcomes.
As we enter October we will be placing our emphasis on the “Core.” Now you may be asking yourself “Why are we focusing on our core after summertime when we have already put the midriff or speedo in the closet for the season?.” So glad you asked.
When we hear the word core we often attribute it to our abdominals but it is so much more than that. All the major muscles that move, support and stabilize your spine are called the muscles of your core and trunk. These include the Rectus Abdominis, Erector Spinae, Obliques, Transverse Abdominus, and Multifidi which all synergistically work together from the front of your body to the back in order for you to bend, twist, stand, stabilize, and move. We have come to a great age in fitness where we understand that isolated ab work most often does not carry over to being an agile and cheetah-like human being capable of everyday functional feats of strength and prowess. Our bodies are not meant to move in isolated ways but rather as one unit. This is why your coaches here at WIP Fitness program dynamic movements that engage all aspects of your core. We are about movements not isolated muscle groups.
Now, don’t get me wrong directly working the abs can be fun and give you that feeling of superhuman core tightness to help you seize your day but in the end full body core strength is what’s important. That is why in October you will see a little more core isolation work but most of our movements and coaching will be centered around learning to use your core as a unit to create what we call Midline Stabilization. Midline Stabilization refers to ability to maintain a neutral spine through full range of motion. All of your core muscles help to keep your spine stable and stiff and allows you to use your prime movers such as the muscles in the hips, glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors more effectively. Using your core the correct way results in you lifting more weight, recruiting greater power, and keeping you away from injury. Every time you plank, pullup, squat, press, deadlift with a neutral spine you are strengthening your core.
Here is what to begin practicing this month when lifting and moving (Taken from Dr. Kelly Starrett). This bracing sequence is best practiced without lifting and by standing in place.
Squeeze your glutes- This locks your hips into a neutral position
Pull your ribcage down to your hips as if your doing a miniature crunch- This helps you avoid overextending your trunk
Tighten your belly by drawing your belly button into your spine (note that you should still be able to breathe comfortably in this position)- This helps to create intra-abdominal pressure and the proper positioning for your back
Set your head to neutral and screw your shoulders down to a stable position. Your head should be in a straight alignment with your spine and you want to feel the tips of your shoulder blades reaching toward your hips
That tightness and rigidity that you feel in your core is what you must maintain in order to experience the benefits of Midline Stabilization. Practicing these steps may not give you a 6-pack by the end of October but it will certainly bring you closer to becoming that agile inner cheetah you have always wanted to be.