oleksiy kononov

Core muscles.
Why do we need them, and how to train?

A non-cheesy 5-minute article will tell you
how to drill your core muscles.
Core muscles exercising is the basis for the training of professional athletes today. Physiotherapists ‘prescribe’ core exercises to people with back pain. Fitness trainers include ab exercises in almost every workout.

Let’s figure out in this 5-minute article what the trick is.
❕ The target audience of this article includes coaches and thinking athletes.
❕ The article contains the answer to the question why my back ached terribly after the end of the performances, and how I managed to improve the situation.
❕ The article is based on the NASM Essentials of Sports
Performance Training tutorial and the personal experience.
#️⃣ What are the core muscles?
Imagine the human body being in the form of a LEGO constructor: the central part (hereinafter I will call this part ‘core’) includes the following segments:
  • lower back;
  • pelvis;
  • hip.
They form together the LPHC (limbo-pelvic-hip-complex) complex as it is listed smartly in textbooks.

The core works as a link with other parts of the body. If to simplify, we get this example:
  • hands + core;
  • legs + core;
  • arms + core + legs;
  • legs + core + arms.
I imagine the center of the body as a kind of a keg, which we carry in space with the help of arms and legs. The more solid keg is, the easier it will be for us to do this.

▶️ Try to throw a soda pop bottle or a condom filled with water as far as possible. Feel the difference.

If the muscles of the limbs are strong, but the center of the body is weak, the force transmitted through the connecting link (core muscles) will be dissipated, the movements will be ineffective or even worse, traumatic.

On the other hand, strong core muscles provide ideal efficiency for the whole body, the best possibilities of accelerating, decelerating and stabilizing the body during movements.
✅ Physical training coaches of sports teams have increased the emphasis on training the core muscles, since they have marked the connection between the muscles strength of the body center and the improvement of the athletic performance.
By strong core muscles, I mean the balance of tone and the optimal state of tension in the muscles of the body center, and in details:

  • Flexibility – a balance between length and tension of muscle pairs, agonists and antagonists;
  • Strength – the optimal tone of muscle pairs, agonists and antagonists.
  • Mobility – the maintenance of optimal ratios of the length and tone of muscle pairs, it provides the joints of the body center with optimal agility and stabilization during movements.
The core muscles are maximally involved in the work against the forces that emerge on the sports ground or in life. Forces that try to bend, compress, break, twist, move, and push.
Being in a trained state, each component of the body center creates, absorbs or transmits a driving force. It also helps to maintain the center of gravity of the athlete on a constantly changing support.

✅ Basic sports movements such as swinging, kicking, throwing, jumping and sprinting require strong core muscles as a lot of energy is generated in the center of the body and transferred to the limbs. Therefore, training the core muscles can fundamentally improve the results of an athlete.

⭐ Arriving at the training camp at Cirque du Soleil, we did a bio-impedance analysis – this is a test that shows body composition. After passing this test, you can find out such parameters as:

% muscle mass;
% fat mass;
% water in the body.

So, I took the test on the first day on the training camp, then I passed it every three months during the entire preparation period.

According to the analysis, the third month of training showed that I gained 2 kg of pure muscle mass, of which 1 kg 300 g were acquired precisely in the area of the body center.

See fact photos below:
Body Composition Analysis ⬇️
Segmental Lean Analysis ⬇️
The interesting thing is that I did not work on my press on purpose. I mostly did gymnastics. We worked on staging the stunt part of the performance.
My experience here, in the form of a muscle mass increase in the zone of the body center, confirms the theory that any functional movement arises or passes through the muscles of the core.
Weak core muscles are a fundamental problem that creates inefficient movements and the risk of many injuries.

However, a properly developed comprehensive training program helps eliminate this problem quickly.

You also have to understand: by strengthening the muscles of the core, you increase the results of the entire system of the musculoskeletal system, all movements, all indicators. It’s cool, isn’t it?
#️⃣ Functional Anatomy of the Core Muscles
To put together a great training program training program, a coach must understand the functional anatomy and the mechanisms of body center stabilization (LPHC). What and how.

The main stabilization mechanisms at the NASM University are conditionally divided into:
1️⃣ local stabilization system;
2️⃣ global stabilization system;
3️⃣ movement system.
These systems will be discussed below.

To obtain perfect results in training and competition, it is necessary to strengthen and teach the coordinated work of all stabilization systems. They have to be activated at the right time with the right amount of power.
1️⃣ The Local Stabilization System
The local stabilization system includes muscles, attached directly to the vertebrae.
These muscles are mainly type I muscle fibers (red, slow, unwearied) with a high density of myofibrils.

These deep muscles are primarily responsible for intervertebral stabilization: they resist
✋ compression (compression of the vertebrae);
✋ shifts of the vertebrae relative to each other;
✋ excessive rotation.

These muscles help in proprioception as well, i.e.:
✊ control of body position in space;
✊ control over maintaining back posture;
✊ posture control in general.
The main muscles that make up the local stabilization system include:

Moreover, this muscle group contributes to the stabilization of the spine by increasing intra-abdominal pressure. I will talk about it in this article below.
2️⃣ The Global Stabilization System
The global stabilizers of the core are the muscles, attached from the spine to the pelvis. These muscles work to transfer loads between the upper and lower parts of the body.
The main muscles that make up the global stabilization system include:

These muscles provide stabilization and control over the body center during movements and in static exercises, twisting, doing squats and plank.
3️⃣ The Movement System
The movement system includes muscles, attached from the spine to the limbs.

These muscles are primarily responsible for dynamic movements.
The main muscles that make up the movement system are:

These muscles form and foster a driving force – acceleration, throw, jump (concentric contractions).
They also reduce the driving force – stopping while running, receiving the ball, landing (eccentric contractions).

It is their well-coordinated work (synergy) that improves sports results.
How does stabilization occur?
The center of the body (LPHC) is stabilized during movements by two main systems. I have called these systems on my own, since real scientific ones are a nightmare, you will hardly articulate :).

1️⃣ Installed Tent System (in fact, TLF – the thoracolumbar stabilization mechanism).
2️⃣ Inflated Balloon System (IAP – Intra-abdominal Pressure Mechanism).

The system of the installed tent is a structure of ropes stretched in different directions, which stabilize the lower back, ‘the center of the tent’, under a good stretch (picture 6.3).
The extensor tendon of the spine plays a key role in this system, it works as the base of the tent and the ‘ropes’ that stretch the base diagonally – the fascia of the latissimus dorsi pull up, and the fascia of the buttocks pull down.

⭐ When I had exacerbations of lower back pain, I found in books on rehabilitation that the weaker the buttocks and latissimus dorsi, the more the lower back will hurt. I didn’t catch that, what the latissimus dorsi has to do with the lower back, but I took my word for it. Having bit the bit and started the active training, the pain eventually receded.
I have got over the pain. Now I understand how it has happened.

This system perfectly resists extreme twisting, bending.

The Inflated Balloon system is a balloon like structure where the diaphragm will be the top, the transverse abdominal muscle and the back extensor muscle (like a scarf) will go along the circumference at the bottom of the pelvic muscle (pic. 6.4) ⬆️
In short, the dome of the diaphragm drops on inhalation; if at the same time the stomach is pulled in and the buttocks are clamped, you will create strong intra-abdominal pressure and look like a Coca-Coca bottle after shaking and dropping. Twisting, bending you under such conditions will be impossible.

The center of the body turns into a springy ball, and even horseradish won’t make it throw up. This system perfectly resists excessive compression and uncontrolled sliding of the vertebrae relative to each other.
✅ This technique is widely used in many sports: weightlifting, gymnastics, throwing. I do complex elements on inhalation.
That is why strengthening the core muscles is the best prevention of non-contact spinal injuries. Like when pinned, pinched, jammed, inflated by accident.

It is the strong core muscles that resist traumatic uncontrolled movements in sports and life. Now you know how it works.

This is the first of three articles on the topic of core muscles. In the next article, I will share the research findings that combine weak core muscles with back and knee injuries. I will also share personal experience on this account. If the article is useful to you, bookmark and use the best practices in your life. I will also be glad if you share the article on social networks. Keeping in touch...
Oleksiy Kononov
Artist Cirque Du Soleil | Professional Athlete
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Oleksiy Kononov