When we think about the structure of the human body where do we place the majority of our value? The answer isn’t as obvious as it should be. The true structure that builds our body up and sustains all our daily activity is our core. We are not referring to the 6-pack abs that society defines as fit, but rather the functionality of our core muscles and how they relate to every other part of our body.
First things first, we need a common understanding of what makes up our core. We have the rectus abdominis, which is our 6-pack. These are the superficial abs that can be built up and exist underneath fat if we only do our daily crunches. However, our rectus abdominis does not control our pelvis, and the way we carry our hips.
The most complete core muscle that supports all of our movement is the transverse abdominal muscle (TVA). The TVA can be thought of as the corset to our spine. It hugs our midline and when activated properly can lead to controlled, unharmed movement. The other parts of our core include internal and external obliques that allow us to twist right and left, erector spinae that allows us to bend backwards, and multifidi that keeps our spine stable during movement.
Transverse abdominal muscles are functional, but 6-pack abs are what’s desirable. How do we meet in the middle and get both? Societal standards look for a 6-pack as the definition of strength, but that means nothing if we can’t use it properly in our movement. The best way to get “abs” is through diet and metabolic conditioning so doing daily crunches will not get you that 6-pack. An individual has to eat well and burn fat, both of which take time and patience. The energy we use during metabolic conditioning at Fly Feet is what gets our body to burn fat quicker.
In the studio we swing kettlebells, we load front squats, and we do lots of push ups. You might think of these movements as upper and lower body work, but all of our muscles are linked through fascia. The contraction of our core muscles spread towards our extremities. Think of a partially used tube of toothpaste. If you squeeze the middle of the tube there will be added tension to both ends of the tube. The same principle applies to core activation. Contracting your midline will connect the core with the other musculature we are asking the body to use.
A recent study showed that loading a heavy front squat and completing one rep is 100 times more beneficial (and burns more calories) than a crunch. However, we cannot accomplish any of this without developing our TVA’s and controlling our pelvic floor. Without controlling our pelvis we often lose access to our glutes. Glutes and core go hand in hand and when we don’t use them together we see injuries such as torn or strained hamstrings. Or have you ever experienced pain in your lower back? There is a high correlation between low back pain and lack of core engagement. This is why we take a more functional approach to movement, which will allow you to not only work on your 6 pack, but more importantly, make you strong and less injury prone.
Outside the studio we need to learn how to activate our core throughout the day. Right now you are reading this blog. If you are sitting down, are you pulling your belly in and straightening out your spine? If you are standing, what is the position of your pelvis right now? Neutral with your glutes active? Or is your lower back slightly arched creating pressure on your spine? We need to constantly be aware and activating to build the core that will keep us healthy, functional, and strong.