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(Part 2) What is your core? It's much more important than sexy abs.

CrossFit Athlete Core

What is your CORE?

(Did you miss part 1 click here to read) The core actually lies beneath the musculature that is typically trained in the traditional gym environment. These deeper muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus (small spinal muscles that stabilize individual spinal bones), diaphragm and pelvic floor. Why do traditional workouts and sports specific training not specifically target the core? It is not a prime mover but a stabilizer and the center of force transfer. Traditional training will focus on the core as a mover, thinking crunches and back extensions are the key. CrossFit knows deadlifts, overhead squats and pushups are much more effective. So the CrossFit athlete not only gains better overall strength but more efficient movement and longevity of health. The absolute value of core in CrossFit is developing the stability. This gives us the ability to control the force produced by the movement. The core has five different components for stability: strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control and function. Without the motor control and function, the others are useless.

As a chiropractor, I am always asked (by my non-crossfitting patients), doesn’t CrossFit hurt people? Or jokingly at my box, I am often asked how much CrossFit has helped my business. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who hurt themselves, but I see far more patients injured because of poor motor control from years of disuse. No matter how the patient comes to my office, all have one thing in common, a dysfunction in his/her core. The spine is the most important part of the core.

Not only does it anatomically form 25% of the core components, it is the part that maintains the posture, generates movement relative to gravity, is the “backbone”, no pun intended, that balances and coordinates motor control (left/right and front/back), and protects the nervous system. Just as the skull protects the valuable brain, each spinal bone encircles the spinal cord and forms the boney protection for the exit of the nerve to extend and branch throughout the body to control and coordinate not only the muscles, but the function of organs and interface of our bodies with the world through positional sense, sensation and environmental awareness.

That is why a spinal injury is so much more than a pulled muscle or ligamentous sprain like any other joint of the body. It involves more complicated structures than just soft tissue damage, as the nerves can become “pinched” and interrupt life and health on every level.

Research has shown that athletes with a higher core stability have a lower risk of injury. Take this Functional Movement Screen to test your core stability.

  1. Trunk Stability Pushup Test. In a single motion, perform a pushup while maintaining a completely straight body. The chest and stomach must leave the ground at the same time. You have 3 attempts to complete. If you pass, proceed to step 2. A higher core stability will yield better strength gains in your squat and deadlift.
  2. Core Strength Test. Plank on your elbows for 90 seconds with strict posture.
  3. Side Plank Test. Side plank with your elbow under your shoulder and feet stacked on top of each other for 60 seconds.
  4. Knees to Chest or Toes to Bar. Complete 5 strict knees to chest for a passing score and 5 toes to bar for an optimal score. No swinging. 
  5. Complete a single deadlift at novice weight (google basic strength standards CrossFit to know your weight standard based on your sex and body weight)
An experienced CrossFit athlete will easily exceed the basic standards of these tests, which is just being able to perform all 5 movements as prescribed. That is the testament of core conditioning in functional movement training. Experienced athletes in other sports will meet the basic standards. The average person is unable to complete the first test correctly, let alone progress to the remaining four tests. Challenge a friend or co-worker to try it! Don’t worry, if you are a CrossFit athlete who is unable to perform all five or struggle with any one test, your dedication at the box will produce results over time!

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