Right now, the buzz is all about the CORE. CORE this and CORE that. Well, what the hell is the CORE anyway? When I started having back troubles, my physiotherapist told me I had weak core muscles. I said “pardon” she must have been mistaken, either that or she hasn’t seen my chiseled abs. HA. I said, “Well, I feel pretty strong” poking at them with vigor and watching my knuckles collapse on impact. Like steel. That should show her.
“Not those muscles” she replied, rightfully embarrassed for me. “Those are what we call ‘Superficial Muscles’, they may look good from an outsiders perspective, but they won’t do much for the health of your back or your alignment or even your rock climbing. In fact, that’s probably why you’re here, your superficial muscles are stronger than your core”. I wanted her to stop calling them that, ‘superficial’. I worked hard for those muscles dammit, not to mention the strength I assumed they’d supply me. But in the end, she was right, all this time I was working the wrong group. In fact climbing is probably what led to this.
Tight hip flexors, tights soas muscles, strong upper abs and a strong mid back has allowed me to get away with a lack of CORE strength for the last ten years. I’ve been using all the wrong muscles to perform my movements and now at 29, it’s starting to add up. I’ve had more lower back discomfort these last two years than ever before, and I realized that if I don’t make a serious change soon, this could lead to something a lot more serious than just some minor aches and pains in the night. Here’s a picture for the ladies, notice my, er… I mean this guys toned upper abs. They may look good, but you have to wonder, – How strong is his transversus abdominus? And I know you’re wondering.
BUT, there is hope on the horizon, or so I have found, and I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. It seems wherever I go traveling, I’ve come across people with the exact same symptoms. It’s called anterior pelvic tilt, and it’s more common than you may think and beware that it can easily morph into lordosis. There is also posterior tilting that exists, but lets focus on one thing at a time here.
Society’s pressure on external aesthetics have guys in the gym doing abdominal crunches until blue in the face and girls working on their asses, so they can put it out on display and lure the less intellegent gender (men) over to buy them a free drink. Don’t get me wrong, it works everytime, but the issue here is on our overall health and wellbeing. Isn’t it? Notice the serious emphasis on the pelvic tilt here in this picture, what’s the message?
Perhaps 150 years ago, this wasn’t such a big deal, men and women got their workouts in the field, out on the farm, trying to survive, now days, life is easier and there is such a thing called RECREATION and it’s growing at an incredible rate. Not that recreation didn’t exist back then, but now it’s become a lifestyle, and for many people, even a career. You can get paid to be an athlete if you’re prepared to be one of the best. But to be the best you need to earn it, people today are training harder and getting stronger than ever before. But not always without consequence. If you train improperly, you’re going to do more damage than good. I’m learning this as I go.
The Transverus Abdominus is a corsette than WRAPS around your lower bodies organs. Below the rib cage we have very little to protect ourselves, except our Trans Abs. Because my stonger more “superficial” muscles have done all the work, I’ve litterally lost connection to my Transverus Abdominus, it took me three days of trying just to be able to send brain signals (neurological transmission) to the area and start firing them consistenly. Now, I do it all the time, while eating, stretching, working, walking, breathing. I’m constantly trying to keep my CORE engaged. Otherwise, we get sloppy, we get weak and eventually, we get injured. Not to say this will happen to everyone, but some of us are at greater risk than others. Doing yoga has taught me many things in the last 2 years, but I can’t thank it (or Lydia) enough for helping me correct my back pain. I still get sore from time to time, but nothing like in the past and I’m getting better and stronger every week. Here is a picture of the CORSETTE or girdle concept. It’s the only thing that can protect you from injuring your spine, it’s all or nothing. Also, keep in mind, an aggravated spine can even lead to pain in the knees and ankles too.
To engage these muscles, try laying on the floor on your back, relaxing and then squeezing the top of the pelvic bones together, across your stomach. It’s like when you get into cold water for the first time and you want to lift the jewels up to protect them, YAh, now you got it, it’s those muscles. They’re all connected. try it.
If neglected for too long, things can get out of hand fast and soon you’ll have to deal with an accute case called Lordosis, which as the diagram describes is an exagerated lumbar curve. I find many climbers use our extremeties to pull ourselves in, while yogis use their core. Climbers pull hard and engage the core last, if at all, while yogis initiate nearly every single movement my engaging the core first and foremost and then branching out. This is the sort of awareness I’m working towards.
In conclusion, take care of yourself, invest in yourself, invest in preventative treatment, it’s like maintenance, a small bit of work each day can save you years of pain and suffering and perhaps surgery tomorrow. I’m working every day to fix the damage I’ve done to myself, and not just climbing, mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding and drunken party tricks. They add up and it’s time I head them off, join the core users of the world and hopefully be stronger than ever. I hope you can get something from this, it’s really directed toward everyone, but mostly atheletes. Besides, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore those superficial muscles, but I’m thinking a strong core and a pain free body is going to be a lot sexier in the long run.