What’s up with the “CORE”?
Let’s get straight to the core of the matter: the center, the innermost part.
In the human body what does one find in the center? Guts, that is! More anatomically known as the intestines and part of our organs. One could argue that organs deserve a place at the table when it comes to core matters. Yet organs are not usually part of the modern western paradigm of the core. In China you would be hitting the bull’s eye, but that is for another blog, another fishpond.
So what is the traditional core idea of the core? Actually it is not the core but the muscles surrounding and compressing the core that it usually refers to. This to increase inter-abdominal pressure and affect a slight stiffening or stabilization of the trunk: The usual suspects are the abs, the lower back musculature, the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm. Especially the Transversus Abdominis a.k.a. the TA have received much press. It was brought to the fore when an Australian research team “discovered that there was a delayed onset of the TA in people with back issues/back pain in leg/arm lifting.”
To overcome the “onset” problem focused training of the TA and multifidy was introduced: core co-activation, which basically means to tense/brace. This means imposing an abnormal non-functional pattern already known to us humans: it is what we do when we are in pain; it is called a protective strategy based on this and paired with Pilates the revolution went global.
Even though the idea may have been well intended there are inherent problem with such a linear approach.
The body is designed for dynamic stabilization which translates to using many different parts and ways to get the job done using the lest amount of tension especially of the static variety.
We can observe that there are very low levels of co-contraction in standing and walking, which suggests that strength loss is not that important. How you produce the movement is more of an issue. As a matter of fact, if the abs are over trained and has too high of a tonus, they increase lumbar compression and minimizes the efficiency of the system. That doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t have well trained and well toned muscles. Only on may propose that it is done in a manner that gives the body the best circumstances to fulfill its different functions and for us to experience health with its full connotations.
How do we know that the core is “on”? The experience is often described as a sense or state of “flow”. When you have no particular sense of any part of the body, but the whole; posture and movement are effortless. One sure sign is that we have no peripheral tension.
In the Franklin Method we propose that embodying our function improves our function. We start with the functions we use the most because that’s the basis for everything else that we do. We focus on relationships, the chain of movement, alignment, bone-rhythms and synchronizing the different parts of the body.