Secrets to Core Stabilization
The ability to stabilize your core is crucial for proper exercise technique and injury prevention. Unfortunately, I’ve found that few people are able to do so properly.
For most people, it isn’t enough for us to just tell them to “squeeze your abs” or “tighten your core.” If that client has no idea what a tight core should feel like, that cue is going to fall flat.
When giving cues, we have to break them down into two categories: internal and external. In this instance, internal cues refer to our ability to feel a contraction in the correct muscles/groups by contracting them ourselves. External cues will need an outside source or implement to force the contraction of those muscles.
Ideally, we would want all of our clients to understand and utilize internal cues, as they are much more powerful. This shows that they have full control over what’s going on with their body. However, this isn’t always the case for our clients; we may need to begin with external cues for them to fully understand how and where muscles should contract.
I have two go-to internal cues I use that tend to work pretty well. The first is “pull your belly button into your spine.” This should get some of the internal core muscles (internal obliques, transverse abdominus) firing. The second one I’ll use is “brace your abs like you’re going to get punched in the stomach.” I find the second to be a bit more effective because there’s more context to base the feeling on.
Again, these may not work for everyone. Some will need that external object to reinforce proper muscle contraction.
If I’m trying to cue core stabilization in corrective exercises, like dead bugs or bird dogs, having the client hold a resistance band with tension (see image at top) can help activate the core musculature. We can use a very similar technique to achieve proper bracing patterns for a deadlift, where we pull a band close to the hips to activate the lats and abdominal muscles.
When working on more traditional core exercises (crunches, knee raises, etc),
I’ll take a slightly different approach. One I’ve found works well is squeezing an object between the legs while performing the exercise can help accentuate abdominal contraction. Begin with something light (foam rollers work great here), then you can progress to heavier objects (medicine balls) as you get stronger. Take a peek at the first photo at the top for an example.
We can also work on lower half squat stability in this way, as well. Put a foam roller long ways between the legs and squeezing can help activate the adductors and lower core muscles to stabilize your squat.
Let me know how these work out for you!
p.s. Want to hear all of this and more straight from me? Check out the video below and start putting it all to use.
In addition to teaching Axiom Academy courses, Josh is a Performance Coach & Personal Trainer in Delray Beach, FL. Josh focuses on taking the most current research and combining it with the most effective real life coaching strategies ton help every client get the most from their routine and time with him. He's committed to seeing other Fitness Pros succeed through better understanding client needs and providing ongoing "in the trenches" coaching to those getting started.
You can connect with him more on IG @joshgangaware or find him on Facebook!