Two Simple Core Fixes

First off, I want to thank Jocelyn for suggesting this topic. It started with a simple question she asked during her training session today (don’t worry, we’re doing all of our training outside right now).

I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like this:

Why is my core always my weak point?

Why?

This is a question a lot of people have. What you need to know about Jocelyn is that she’s pretty darn strong and she’s very active. Most people naturally assume they need to strengthen their core when they feel like this, but in Jocelyn’s case she’s been doing that pretty diligently for a while.

So what’s the deal?

Well, there are two aspects to this. We all know about the strength part, and that is incredibly important, but it’s not the only thing.

The human body is an amazing thing. One of the ways that shows is how it compensates. That means when one thing is weak or doesn’t move well, something else just picks up the slack. This almost always happens without our even realizing it and core function is a great example of how it works.

This is why shoulder/neck pain or tightness, and back pain, frequently (usually) have more do with core positioning than your shoulders, neck or back.

In order for this to make sense you have to realize two things.

First: WHAT our core is. 

Many people think core = abs. Yes, our abs are a part of our core, but they’re not the whole thing. The core actually covers the front of our midsection all the way around our body like a cylinder.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Core!!

Yes. Sometimes, you may even consider the glutes and hips as part of your core.

Second: The true function of our core. 

That is stability.

To put it simply, our core stabilizes our body so that our arms and legs can do what they have to do.

Think of it like this. If you’re standing on solid ground and try to walk, it’s a fairly easy process. (In this scenario the ground is your core.) If you’re standing on Jello, that complicates things a bit.

Let’s bring this all home.

What happens if your core isn’t doing its job, is that either your shoulders/neck or your spine have do the stabilizing.

This brings us back to our original question:

Why is my core always my weak point?

If strength isn’t the issue, then the answer is positioning. In other words where you are holding your core in relation to your body and what you are acutually using for stabilization.

This is a topic that can (and has) taken entire volumes to fully cover so I’ll keep it very simple.

This book is a great start. Click the picture to order from a great local bookstore.

All I want to do today is give you two very simple things you can do to put your core in a good position.

I just want to tell you this before we start, though. You need to realize that even though these things are simple to understand and even do initially, if you aren’t diligent in how you approach these things, if you just do them once and forget about them, they will not work and you will naturally revert back to old positions. If this is an issue for you, your body has likely spent years forming habits that will not just vanish without vigilance.

Take things seriously.

Take time to FEEL the new positions, not just look at them.

You won’t have a mirror everywhere you go, but you will have your body and your nerve endings.

OK. Let’s get started.

Standing Position.

  1. Stand up and make sure your feet are pointed straight ahead. Both of them.
  2. Now look straight ahead making sure your feet don’t turn in or out.
  3. Take 2 deep breaths into your belly.
  4. Look back down at your feet.
  5. This is the important part: Notice what happens to your hips and weight distribution when you look back down at your feet. Your hips will likely shift back and your weight will move to your heels. 
  6. This is the second important part: Carefully move your head up so you’re again looking straight ahead, but keep your hips right where they were while you were looking down at your feet. 
  7. Now take a deep belly breath as you adjust your weight distribution evenly from heel to toe.

At this point your hips should be pretty evenly placed, thus putting your core into a good position. (This may not work for every single person, but it generally works pretty well.)

Now the second part.

Breathing

This is where people start getting lazy.

“I know how to breathe!”

That may be true but, particularly if they have pain, people don’t know how to breathe well, and usually not in a way that enhances core function.

As a quick aside, let me say this just once:

If you have chronic pain and you don’t fix your breathing patterns,

your pain will never go away.

Anyway, here’s what I want you to do now.

Right after you complete all seven steps above:

  1. Put a hand on your belly without moving your hips or moving your eyes.
  2. Breathe into your belly so your hand moves.
  3. Here’s the important part: Notice what happens to your shoulders and how your low back feels every time you take a breath.

Feels kind of relaxing, huh?

Relaxed Kitty

OK. That was the easy part. The hard part is applying it to your life. The best advice I can give is to pay attention to how all this feels.

  • How do your shoulders feel when you breathe like this?
  • How do your shoulders move when you breathe like this?
  • How do your hips feel?
  • How does your back feel?
  • How do your abs feel?

When you are exercising, do these things before your sets.

Will it feel a little silly at first?

Maybe.

Should you care?

If you start to feel that familiar shoulder or back pain do these things.

Before you pick something up off the ground do these things.

You starting to get it?

The good news is that after a little while this stuff becomes habit, just like the habits that we’re trying to replace, and when that happens your core will work better!

You see what happens when I start taling about this stuff?

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions at all about positioning or anything else. There is a lot to talk about here that I just don’t have the time or space to cover.

Take care and stay safe!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, Egoscue PAS, Pn2
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way
The Cleanest Gym In The Bay Area! 
510-754-7113
mitch@CastroValleyFitness.com