You have heard all the hoopla about the importance of ‘core strength’ in preventing back injuries (as well as a bunch of other injuries). You may have heard us coaches yelling a bunch of ‘core’ related cues such as: Hollow! Stay tight! Tight abs! Strict crunch! Abs before back! However, this may be confusing (and even dangerous) if you associate the word ‘core’ or ‘abs’ with a sit up type movement and only flex your six pack muscles during your lifts.
A good analogy for the purpose of core strength, or midline stabilization, is to envision an anvil sitting on top of a concrete cylinder. The structural integrity of the cylinder prevents the tank from collapsing on it. However, when the cylinder is slightly hollow or if parts of it are cracked, the weight would inevitably crush it.
Any time you are moving large loads (ie all of our lifts and many of our body weight movements), it’s important to make yourself like this concrete cylinder. But to do so you’ll have to get a better idea of your anatomy. Refer to this post for a breakdown of the major players. T-Nation just posted an article by Jesse Irizarry that lists quite a few more muscles that play a part in stabilizing your entire torso: front, side, and back:
Along with the abs in the front (rectus abdominis), it includes the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, and psoas major, extending down to include the hips/glutes and up to include the pelvic floor and the muscles by the spine called the multifidus and erector spinae.
He goes on to explain the difference between bracing, pelvic floor contraction (kegels), and breathing and how each plays a part in preventing injuries. He also posted exercises that will help improve this stabilization and great demo videos as well. Read the rest of the T-Nation article here.
When you are pressing today, take a huge breath, and tighten your whole torso around that breath as if you’re trying to compress that air. Tighten your lower abs as you would during a wall crunch and hold for the duration of the lift. Imagine you are a concrete cylinder and see if it makes the weight go up easier..
Post questions to comments.
Press 3×5 or Wendler
2 Muscle Ups
6 Handstand Push Ups
8 Heavy Kettlebell Swings