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More About the Core

The “core” is sometimes thought of as only the abdominal (abs) muscles (the so-called “six pack” muscles). While the abs are part of the core, there are many more muscles that constitute the core complex. In reality, the core complex should provide stability, not movement. Basically, any muscle that acts in concert with other muscles to stabilize the spine and help transfer force from the legs to the arms (or vise-versa) are core muscles.


For emphasis, let me say it another way, the spinal vertebrae work together as a lever and are not designed for significant movement. While classic “core” training would have you focus on using muscles to create spinal movement and force, (i.e. sit- ups, resisted spinal twists etc.) there are no functional activities that actually use the muscles that way. Those exercises have been shown by leading spine biomechanists to cause injury!


I know, many of you golfers, throwers, and hitters out there will swear up and down that you are twisting your spine in your activity. If you take a look at a still-shot of an elite athlete in any of these activities you will see that, in fact, the spine is buttressed and stable at the point of impact (or release) and the movement is occurring in the hips and arms. Trying to create force via spinal movement is a recipe for injury.


Since the core muscles stabilize the spine, they should actually be thought of as “anti-spinal-movement muscles” and should be trained with that in mind. Before any movement occurs, the muscles of the core should contract to “buttress” the spine and connect the upper and lower body. Whether you are an elite athlete or an older athlete, a weak or “dysfunctional” core will lead to poor movement mechanics and will put a greater load on the spine.


With these thoughts in mind let me give you one practical example of what I am talking about. Any of us who have ever done manual labor for an employer will be aware of the signs that tell us to lift with our legs not our backs. While these precautions are put there by the lawyers to protect the employer, most employees have no idea what it means. By keeping the above principles in mind - buttressing the spine and moving it as a lever- you will use the hips as a “hinge” while lifting. If the lift is heavy enough you will still feel it in the back muscles, but you will truly be using the legs to lift. You will be decreasing the likelihood of back injury.


My challenge to you is to look at the exercises demonstrated on this web site an observe the movement patterns that emphasis the buttressing of the spine while functional movement is occurring. Training with that in mind will lead to movement habits that minimize chance of injury.


Accept the challenge and learn to move well.



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