The CORE is the center of all functional movement.
This “thicker” core of a CrossFit athlete is developed as a reflection of the balance, coordination and stability of the body to perform functional movement. Search Google for images of CrossFitt athlete and notice every athlete, man or woman, has an amazing sculpted abdomen or "CrossFit Body". Anyone who has watched the Reebok CrossFit Games has no doubt that these elite athletes deserve the title of “Fittest on Earth”. Their feats of strength, speed and agility demonstrate their skill, but certainly just looking at their bodies demonstrate their dedication to fitness.
As a health care provider focused on the human anatomy, physiology and mechanics of functional movement, there is a deep appreciation of the CrossFitter’s frame and performance. It is astounding to realize these muscular arms and strong legs are not the result of a “chest and triceps” or “back and biceps” day at the gym. They are the result of functional movement training. Movements every human should be capable of performing, every day, in all activities of life. Every BODY should maintain the ability to squat, jump, push, pull, reach overhead, run, crawl, roll and twist. Yet, people of all ages lose these abilities associated with quality of life by not being able to do these movements.
In my practice I am astounded by the number of people who can’t squat below parallel—get in and out of a chair properly, can’t reach overhead to a high shelf, unable to roll out of bed or get onto the floor or up without assistance. We expect this with the older population (over 50), but believe it or not, young people (in their 20’s) have difficulties too. Now back to the CrossFit Games athletes…yes their arms, legs and booties are amazing but I believe the hallmark of the CrossFitter is their CORE. Just looking at these athletes is like looking at no other athlete in any other sport. I remember walking into my CrossFit box and thinking, how many ab mat sit ups does it take to look like that? How many Russian twists and how heavy does my kettlebell need to be to get those results? The answer…NONE.
Although focused abdominal work does help, it is the CORE of functional movement that makes all the difference! I have learned it is as simple as hollow rocks, learning to kip on a pull up or rope climb, the breathing we do during an Olympic lift, and actually being able to do a toes to bar movement that develops the core. I have visions of the movie, “300” or the image of the women at the 2013 Games running the Zig Zag Sprint. Google images of “CrossFit Barbie” and compare that to the unrealistic, traditional Barbie doll. The noticeable difference…the muscular development of her core.
Functional movements are movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar (front, back and side bending), multi-joint (ankle, knee, hip/wrist, elbow, shoulder) movements which place demand on the body's core musculature and innervation. Functional exercise incorporates as many variables as possible (balance, multiple joints, multiple planes/directions of movement). This actually decreases the load on individual muscles and/or muscle groups but increases the complexity of coordination and flexibility.
Because these complex movements-a clean and jerk, an overhead squat, a pull up or even a box jump involves gross motor movement. It is necessary for the core to balance, coordinate and translate the movement into completion from muscle contraction to dynamic stabilization, to the transfer of force from one extremity to another or even just to initiate the movement.
That is truly the CORE of CrossFit. The strength of your core not only determines your skill, strength and agility, but also measures your fitness and health. In the end, every functional movement utilizes your core.
Do you want to find out if you have the basic core stability necessary for CrossFit and daily life? Check out part two for the Functional Movement Screen Test.