Core Stability vs. Your Six Pack
By Coach Katie Siemon
As a trainer, especially heading into beach season, we often hear “I want a six-pack” when clients are asked about their goals. Don’t hear me wrong- I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that goal, however, I want to talk about something deeper than that… literally and physically. Midline stability. Sounds boring right? What you are probably thinking is: what does midline stability mean anyways and more importantly how does it relate to my gainz in the gym?
The best definition I have heard of core stability is “the ability for the core to resist unwanted movement under stress from intensity and/or load.” This basically means that we continue with upright posture even while squatting, lifting, performing gymnastics movements, cooking dinner, sitting at work, driving the car… you get it. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING we do requires our core to have some stability. Here is the ground breaking news… everything besides your arms or legs is considered your core! Yup, I said it…your whole torso, sternum to public bone. Your abs are not the only thing we need to work in order to gain core stability and strength.
You see, the core is the force transfer center of EVERY movement we do. By increasing core strength we increase the ability to produce force and when we increase core stability we increase the ability to CONTROL the force we are producing. That’s tricky, go back and re-read that to see how core strength and core stability are correlated. Think about the movements we may see in a typical WOD; running, snatch, deadlift, squat, overhead press, burpee, jump rope. Although in many of these movements at first glance seem like using your arms and legs, a secure midline is required to efficiently and safely perform them all. We see the ability to move safely, with more efficiency, and with more power when someone is activating or bracing their core. The opposite of bracing would be to have a relaxed torso, your ribs up, your back rounded or arched, and your glutes not activated. Here’s the great news: You don’t need to be a great athlete first to work on core stability and strength.
A common misconception is that doing more situps, more GHDs, more toes to bar, more planks will give us more stability. Although all those movement are great at building strength in various areas of the body, like we talked about before, core stability can be increased by concentrating on activating our core during EVERY movement. When we talk about snatching or cleaning, deadlifting or sumodeadlift high pulls; movements where we lift weight off the ground, one of the first things we talk about or teach is the bracing of the core. Learning how to brace your core is the first step…step number two; practice bracing in everything you do. Right now, wherever you are reading this BRACE and relax. Think about someone running up to you and punching you in the belly. How would your body react to prepare for the blow? That tension…that’s bracing!
More stability in the core translates to more control over core strength; more control over core strength translates to more power behind your movements; more power behind your movements translates to an increase in your fitness ability. If you have been around the Crossfit community long enough, you know that crossfit defines fitness as increased work capacity over broad time and modal domains. (Maybe more easily understood as the largest load moved over the quickest time.) Do you see where I am going here? As you work to become more stable in your core- it will translate to increased fitness. Increased fitness (with the help of good nutrition) will result in a change in your physique- maybe even that six-pack you were aiming for. Becoming more efficient in your movements allows you to make bigger gains, and efficient movement begins at the core.
Here are some movements that you can work on to help you work on engaging and bracing your core.
Barbell roll outs
Med ball toss
Want to know more? Get with a coach to connect the pieces and figure out how you can effectively engage your core during each movement during class!