“Toning up the core” is a common concept within practices in the Health & Fitness community. Hundreds of sit-ups, planks for minutes, and extension-driven ab wheel rollouts are a few examples of exercises personal trainers or online resources will likely prescribe to you.
The problem is, you aren’t training your core effectively with those exercises. You’re either targeting one muscle group in the core (the Rectus Abdominis) or training a pattern of extension that you’re already stuck in, making your pain worse.
If I gave you a TRUE core exercise that involved correct respiration, you would be shaking and begging for mercy within 15 seconds. The “core” is not designed to just do sit-ups. Its function is to help you breathe and stabilize your body throughout the day.
Take a look at the following diagram of the core musculature:
That’s a lot more than just your Rectus Abdominis, or your “six pack” abs. And you know what muscle works with all of these abdominal muscles for breathing? Your diaphragm, which is HEAVILY involved in core functioning.
Your diaphragm is supposed to ascend and descend during breathing, and if our Obliques and Transverse Abs are not securing our ribcage down, we are setting ourselves up for dysfunctional breathing and pain since our diaphragm can’t do its job if the ribs are stuck flared up. Flared up ribs means less room for the diaphragm to move.
True core training involves breathing. Any good core exercise forces you to own a position and not compensate by extending your back or moving out of alignment. It’s transverse abs and obliques, all while keeping those ribs down so we assist the diaphragm in getting in a proper position.
This is what we do at Sandhills Sports Performance. You will never see anyone do a sit-up here!
So next time you do a core exercise, keep those ribs down. Get a full inhale through your nose and exhale ALL that air out through your mouth. Own the position, or else you aren’t owning your core.
See the video below for a great core exercise that hits your obliques hard. Keep your pelvis posteriorly rotated, keep those ribs down, and breathe!!