Honest Blog

Why Should We Do It?: Activate Your Core!

“You are in the perfect position to get there from here.” – Abraham-Hicks

This month when we ask the question – Why Should We Do It? – we are focusing firmly on our abs. When you’re grunting your way through a circuit and you hear your trainer yell “squeeze your abs”, “tighten your abdomen”, “activate your core” (or similar utterances) do you actually do it? Maybe it doesn’t really make that big of a difference right? I mean, sure it’s important to suck in your tummy when a particularly attractive so-n-so happens to be walking by…but does it really make that much of a difference in your workout?

Let’s find out, shall we? First let’s take a quick look at what we are supposed to be tightening.

What makes up your core?

In the simplest terms we have 3 layers of abdominal muscles.

Layer 1 – The rectus abdomens would not only make a great metal band name, it’s also the outer layer that makes up what most people refer to as the “six-pack”. That’s right…even if it may not be visible, you have a six-pack in there! It connects vertically from our ribcage to our pelvis.

Layer 2 – Your middle abdominal layer is made up of the external and internal obliques. These guys run diagonally from your lower ribcage to your pelvis (these are the muscles that burn during side-crunches).

Layer 3 – Your final layer is called the transversus abdominis which runs horizontally beneath the first two layers. This guy is in there all cozy with your deep core muscles (like your multifidis).

These are the core muscles we are going to focus on today. Still with me?

Now if I ask you to activate your core, what do you do? I’m imagining you now…you’re probably sucking in your belly like you would when that previously mentioned gorgeous-slice-of-someone saunters past you right? What if I told you that action doesn’t activate all the layers you hope it’s activating?

Damn!

Let me explain. When you suck in your abdomen it’s termed “hollowing”. This specifically activates and isolates your transversus abdominis (TA). Now there is a purpose for hollowing, for example it can be beneficial if you’re focusing specifically on your TA in a pilates class or perhaps during a physical therapy session. It doesn’t however benefit you much when you are lifting weights, and it definitely doesn’t activate your entire core. You may actually cause a weakening of the external and internal oblique muscles.

Oops!

So, how do you activate your core?

If you want to simultaneously activate all the layers of that lovely core of yours you’ll want to learn about abdominal bracing. Not only will it activate and bind all three layers, it will also fire up your quadratus luborum, lats and back extensors.

The easiest way to brace your abdominals is to imaging a ninja.

Yes I said ninja, stay with me…

Imagine that fired-up, stealthy ninja is coming at you with an angry, clenched fist and they are about to punch you square in the gut. What do you do?

There it is. You’re bracing right now. You stiffen all your abdominal layers to “brace” for the punch. You got it Houdini!

So now that you know the difference, let’s take a look at the benefits. Here is what comes with a nice solid braced core:

  • It enhances the stiffness and stability of the core significantly
  • It provides spinal stability
  • It decreases our risk of injury
  • It helps us achieve optimal results (sick gains!)
  • It eliminates micro-movements in the joints that could lead to spine & tissue degeneration
  • It reduces pain and sometimes disability
  • It binds the muscles together for a more functional movement

Now you know why we should do it…so go do it! Keep up the great work!

Ready to brace your abs with us here at Honest? You’re in luck because we have an amazing, sort-of-ridiculous discount on a 6 month membership! Check it out here! Not sure if you want to commit? Try us for a week for free!

Owner of Honest Training
Certified Personal Training w/ a specialization in corrective exercise and small group personal training
Fitness Fanatic
Pit Bull Mom
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