By: Cory House
We get asked about “doing Abs” at least once a month. And although we may not be doing society’s idea of “abs” (aka thousands of crunches), every movement we do starts with your midline. You should be engaging your muscles that support your mid-line (core, abs, etc…) before you start to move, especially when moving weight. This type of engagement is often referred to movement starting at the core and then moving towards your extremities. The “core to extremities” principle means that the ‘bridge” that connects your upper body to your lower body is tight and secure with no loose ends and no broken beams. Proper engagement of the core will not only keep your spine safe but will lead to stronger and bigger lifts. So back to when do we do abs? Everyday!
Kelly Starrett from Mobility WOD, describes core to extremity as “getting organized” prior to performing any movement. Getting organized means squeezing your glutes, tightening your abs, keeping your ribs down, and staying “tight” or locked in. In his book Becoming a Supple Leopard, Kelly explains how weaknesses in one link of the chain can alter the function of the total movement pattern. An example of this can be seen in the squat; the torso, knee, and hip motions are all linked, and if one part of the chain is weak, the movement pattern and strength of the squat will suffer. Although it can seem like a small detail, getting “organized” will help to maintain tension, keep you safe, and allow for efficient force transfer during the movement.
As trainers we are often telling you to engage your glutes, keep your ribs down, or keep your core tight. If your abs are soft, your ribs up, your glutes turned off, and your back is rounded, it will be challenging to squat, press, deadlift, clean, jerk, or snatch heavy loads because you are losing force due to the breaks in your “bridge.”
Movements like the deadlift, squat, press, snatch, clean, and jerk all originate from the core. The goal in these movements is to move the heaviest load possible rather than working a specific muscle group. With that concept in mind, the best and most efficient way to move heavy loads is to allow the largest muscle groups to lead the way.
When performed correctly, “functional movements” (movements that use the whole body) use the larger and stronger body parts first and then move to the weaker parts of the body. When performing a clean, you want to maximize full hip extension before you begin to pull with your arms. Many athletes falter by pulling with the biceps first rather than using the lats and then the biceps after hip extension has been reached. When the extremities move prior to the finishing of the core, you lose power and force which forces the body to rely on the weaker muscles.
If you want to remain injury free, lift heavier weights, and maximize your potential, then the concept of core to extremity should be extremely important to you. Being injury free should be enough for you to want to stay in good positions, but beyond that you will be able to lift more and maintain technique during high intensity conditioning settings if you apply the core to extremity principle.
Core to extremity sounds great Cory, but seriously though, we are we going to do abs, I really want a six-pack.
With our workout variation you will see traditional “core” exercises such as sit ups, planks, leg lifts, etc… but when it comes down to it, putting your body under a heavy load properly will strengthen your core as well as any accessory movement. A person back squatting 200, 300, or even 400 pounds has to have a strong core to stabilize their spine safely as they move.
And #thetruthhurts, for those of you looking for those six-pack abs, core exercises will help and are important, but the food you are putting into your body is going to have an even bigger impact on your physique, so eat clean, train your functional movements, and then let’s take a look at those abs.
Want to learn more about functional movements and eating clean? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started with a Personal Trainer.