Is YOUR core up to code?
Let's get you back to the basics just to make sure...
Every athlete can upgrade their sport performances by working on their core. Regardless of if you are a runner, climber, or a soccer player- you can benefit from harnessing your core. But first, if we can't engage it, we have no business depending on it!
A floppy centered climber is missing the stabilty and the power that can be easily harnessed with a few drills. I'd practice them daily until you have them down pat. Then we can upgrade to the next level...
The 4 Regions of "Core Stability Include:
-Abdominal Muscles (front)
-Low Back Muscles (back)
-Muscles of the Pelvic Floor (bottom)
-Muscles of the Diaphragm (top)
I cover these in depth in my book Climbing Injuries Solved. If you are bored or have a lot of time on your hands while you recover from an injury, you can blend the cans below and the book above to have a fabulous recovery time.
Where are the core muscles exactly? Think of your core like the aluminum of a can
Photo Rights: Dogwoodbrew.com
With the same shape from pelvis to chest, we want to have rigidity in the same regions that the aluminium covers...the top, bottom, and all around the sides should become stiff and should beable to stabilize, regardless of if they are shortening (contracting) or lengthening (elongating).
We must learn to turn the core groups of muscles (top/bottom/sides) on and off at a stand still first, and my favorite exercise for that involves an exercise ball!
Ok, lets get going with our rehab upgrade #1.
NOT-SO BORING NERDY STUFF:
Transfer of force via these muscles to your shoulders, hips and even wrists occurs via fascia (pronounced FASH-uh). The dense connective tissue covering and connecting your muscles in large planes across the body, we're nerding out on this stuff as practitioners and it has changed how we view injuries and their care. An awesome book on the topic is Anatomy Trains, one of my personal favorites.
LETS GET GOING!
My favorite exercise for training core stability includes the use of a physio ball. Improving your feedback, balance on this ball allows you to better increase your control of small muscles of the buttock, hip, and core regions. Read below to correctly gain the most out of this exercise!
STEP 1: Learning to engage your core.
Lay on your belly on a physio ball. Now we are going to begin with the basics to ensure proper engaging of your core muscles...
The athlete below is a patient contracting her core and preparing for motion on her physioball. She has the abdominals nice and solid, she has created tone in her diaphgram and her low back, and finally, she has pulled up her pelvic floor to create and harness power from all 4 quadrants (front, back, top and bottom).
Above: A patient learning to correctly harness core power due to a hip injury.
1. Ensure your abdominals are rigid and your ribs are securely anchored to your pelvis and to each other by firing these muscles. You don't need to pull your belly button in towards the spine, instead you need to make the front of your core tight.
2. Pull up the pelvic floor. Just like stopping urination mid stream, these muscles press from the base of your pelvis upward towards your belly button. Learning to contract these muscles and to control them is VASTLY more important in creating core strength and stability than doing sit-ups. Working muscles incorrectly teaches improper recruitment patterns. Lets not continue to make bad habits.
3. Learn to control the diaphragm. The muscle responsible for creating inhalation, as the diaphragm pushes upward, you exhale. As it pulls downward, you inhale. The top of you core, this muscle is extremely important in learning to create core stability. Learning to contract it without moving it upward or downward creates stability and balances out the contraction of the abdominal muscles. If one group contracts without the rest, an imbalance and lack of stability occurs.
4. Learn to contract the 'back' abs.
The muscles that attach each vertebrae to each other and each rib to the pelvis itself, the back itself is what balances out the completed core stability.
Learn to contract these 4 groups of muscles as a team creates the basis of core stability. Once you have it, each motion in climbing (and in rehab) should be done by FIRST contracting these guys as a team and then finally moving the limbs.
STEP 2: Learning to create motion while engaging your core.
Next, we create motion while maintaining this core stability... Extending opposite arm and leg, the back is kept straight, the pelvis level and all the while the patient learns to control breathing WHILE ALSO maintaining core stability.
Below: A patient amid learning to control her core while adding motion to the limbs... Not the easiest exercise, especially when done deliberately.
STEP 3: Symmetrical Motion on BOTH Sides.
Have a side you are good at now? Great. Don't forget to check the other side...
How good are you lifting opposite arm and leg? Left side vs. right, do you feel an imbalance? The test is also the treatment, thank goodness!
A patient slow to improve her front left sided abdominals.
What do you see in the above photos? If you compare this with the last, this patient is cheating by hyperextending her upper torso, she has forgotten to maintain her core (or is experiencing stability and balance issues due to one side being her dominant side).
Try this one out at home and remember, the slower and more controlled, the more you get out of this exercise. If you can do this easily laying on your belly, the next step includes standing style rehabilitation exercises! If you can't do this exercise, you need more practice, thats all! This exercise easily translates into more stability climbing, which is what makes it a favorite here at my clinic.