CORE STABILIZATION AND THE IMPORTANCE OF ABDOMINAL BREATHING
Protect your spine, avoid serious injury, and get more strength and power into your training routine.
In every day life man has evolved very quickly, creating technologies and methods that make his life easier and more comfortable. We are so far removed from our hunter gatherer ancestors despite still having the knack for it in our genes. More and more people avoid healthy, functional movement and healthy habits leading to deformity of the body during walking, standing or sitting. More often than ever, people drive cars, use computers, endlessly check their cell phones, and wear the wrong shoes. And all these current habits distort the posture and cause or deepen various asymmetries. This limits such individuals to the most basic and necessary exercise.
On the other hand, many of us today have taken to running, CrossFit, Olympic weightlifting, Gymnastics and other demanding sports activities. But in many cases people pursue such activity without any recent experience of good, functional movement and, quite simply, it just can’t turn out well without the basic knowledge of how to move in the correct way.
Professional CrossFit athletes make it all look so effortless on screen. But it is important to remember that for these guys it is their full time job. They train twice a day - constantly strengthening and improving their skills and mobility over the course of years. Such dedication allows them to go hard and fast, all the while maintaining the correct mechanics and technique on the competition floor. And let's not overlook all the advisors, masseurs, and coaches surrounding them as part of their support network.
You too can go hard and fast, but let's talk about ways to make training sustainable for you through core stabilization.
First of all, you should stop comparing yourself with professionals. It is even unhealthy to compare yourself with other people within your CrossFit community. Slow down, leave your ego behind when you walk in that door, and from that moment on you will focus on doing it only for yourself. Because you are only in competition with yourself. Remember that!
Core stabilization precedes each movement and forms a solid frame in the sagittal plane, which is a basic prerequisite for the correct movement of the upper and lower limbs. In other words, without solid core stabilization, we would find it difficult to perform movements that are otherwise completely natural to us like walking, running, swimming or for instance performing a solid squat.
Deep Stabilizing System of the Spine (DSSS), aka the Core
Our so called sagittal stabilization system already performs its function since the sixth week of life. Also known as DSSS or the Core, it is a complex of deep muscles, which surround the abdominal cavity. It includes the diaphragm at the top, followed by transverse abdominus, internal obliques, multifidi and pelvic floor on the bottom. Of course we could include other muscles into this complex, but these ones mentioned above should be enough for our purposes.
The cavity filled only with soft organs located inside these muscles. There is no hard bone shell such as ribcage typical for upper thoracic spine. That´s why learning how to activate your diaphragm and creating intra-abdominal pressure is essential for correct activation of the DSSS. This is not only the key for protecting the spine but also key in correcting your movement patterns and increasing power and performance overall. And how does the DSSS work?
DSSS Function and Importance of Breathing
The Core is best thought of as a cylinder - a bit like a plastic bottle. And the cap on the top of this bottle represents our diaphragm. We let air come in deep into the belly by breathing in, and once the bottle (abdominal cavity) is full, we screw the cap (diaphragm) down tight to avoid any air leaks. And what happens with a sealed bottle full of air when you try to squeeze it? It might be almost impossible, and our core works in a very similar way.
Imagine you are performing a squat. To keep a stable neutral spine you need to breathe into your core, and partially hold the breath to create intra-abdominal pressure. This way you will also fill the abdominal gap and allow your upper and lower body to work as a complex, or more precisely in muscle chain. Thanks to this, we are able to create huge power and enhance immense muscular endurance during the exercise. It is crucial especially when we are performing more complex exercises, but essential for every common body movement, and of course, for a stable and healthy posture itself.
So for proper core activation we need to learn how to breathe in the correct way - to be able to equally distribute the air into the whole abdominal space and affect even the most remote muscles around the lumbar spine or pelvic floor.
Proper breathing habits and core activation should be part of every pre-workout routine. Not just to work out sustainably and effectively, but also protect your spine, avoid serious injury and last but not least, get more strength and power into your training routine. If you need more information about breathing techniques, ask one of our coaches. You can also check some physiotherapist portals on Youtube, but definitely check the reliability of it with a competent person.
We at CrossFit Meat Factory offer 4 levels of On Ramp courses for people who want to join our community. Here, everyone can learn how to move in the correct way, performing basic exercises like squat, hinge, push, pull, hang or more complex exercises like the clean, snatch, kipping pull ups or toes-to-bar. For those, who are already on the board, you can use the drills classes, mobility or weightlifting technique classes to improve your stability, work to eliminate bad habits, and of course, maintain good habits during every single workout.
Written by Coach Jirka
CrossFit Meat Factory