The Little Things Mean A Lot
You’ve probably heard this a few times in your life: the little things mean a lot. The familiar expression can easily be applied to fitness. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of an elevator or parking the car a bit farther away from the entrance to the grocery store, the little things can add up and have a great cumulative effect.
There is one important aspect of training that can benefit from two small technical maneuvers. I’ve already written about the importance of core training, and can promise it’s a topic that deserves re-visiting many times in the future. The core is the center of gravity for the body and the origin of all movement. Comprised of the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex and the thoracic and cervical spine, if the core is unstable or weak, the entire kinetic chain will be thrown off thanks to muscle imbalances. That’s when compensations occur and ultimately, you end up being a prime candidate for injury.
In order to train the core effectively, you want to first focus on the muscles needed for stabilization. (The six core muscles that fall into the stabilization category are: the Transversus Abdominus, Internal Oblique, Lumbar Multifidus, Pelvic Floor Muscles, Diaphragm and Transversospinalis.) There have been several studies indicating people who do not focus on stabilization of the core before working on strengthening the muscles in the core’s movement category (e.g. Rectus Abdominus, External Obliques, Erector Spinae) can suffer from lower back pain. The research shows this happens because of unwanted motion of the individual vertebrae.
The good news is there are two simple practices that can help you stabilize your pelvis properly before performing any core exercises:
- The “drawing-in maneuver:” Whether it’s a supine march, floor bridge, ball crunch or cable rotation, before you do anything, you want to pull your belly button in toward the spine. (Go ahead – give it a try right now!)
- Keep your neck in a neutral position: I usually tell people to try to imagine having an orange in between their head and neck so that you will look straight up at the ceiling when performing core exercises, like crunches. If you let your chin jut out, you can put extra stress on the cervical spine.
Don’t underestimate the impact a couple of simple steps can make on your core training. Like so many other parts of life, it’s the little things you do in your exercise routine that can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!