Core Position...it's pretty damn important

Core (obliques, abdominals, transverse abdominis) position is a vital component to your training as well as everyday life. Our bodies generate force through muscle contractions, but if the joint is not stabilized then our joint cannot be in the proper position for optimal patterns. Stabilization starts at the core.  The spine, hips and shoulders are all integrated and for them to be set in the correct position the core muscles need to engage.

Spine

Spinal stability is essential when putting the body under load. Engaged anterior core musculature acts as a ‘corset’ that will create a strong torso called a brace. From there a deep breath will build intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) and help hold the spine in its position. Loads can now be placed on the body because the IAP makes the spine stiffer and will limit vertebrae movement variability. This cannot be stressed enough that recent research supports the correlation for higher IAP and increased spinal, specifically low back, stiffness. This lays the ground work for strength training because it allows the individual to stress the body’s musculature with reduced risk of spinal injuries.

Hip

The core musculature also enables movement quality of the hip and shoulders. Both are ball and socket joints but demand optimal position for full range of motion and control. With optimal core stability to set the spine neutral, the head of the femur sits in the hip socket to where the hip can be maximally flexed and extended. If not hip stability and range of motion are reduced and movement quality decreases. The photo below shows how when the torso locks down the hip can extend and flex fully as compared to anterior tilt and lumbar extension.

 
  Figure 1.1   As shown in this photo, the spine is extended or arch indicating poor core position. When this occurs the hip cannot flex fully (~90 degrees shown here).

Figure 1.1 As shown in this photo, the spine is extended or arch indicating poor core position. When this occurs the hip cannot flex fully (~90 degrees shown here).

 
 
 Figure 1.2  In this image, the spine is neutral as set by the core position. When the core musculature is engaged, hip mobility and stability can be fully utilized.   

Figure 1.2 In this image, the spine is neutral as set by the core position. When the core musculature is engaged, hip mobility and stability can be fully utilized. 

 

Shoulder

Similar to the hip, the shoulder relies heavily on the position of the rib cage, which is anchored by the torso muscles. The serratus anterior and low trap are key movers when the shoulder scapula complex goes in to protraction and retraction, respectively. However, if the core position is lost the complex struggles to create proper shoulder flexion and extension. This ultimately forces other muscles to come in to help “fake” the optimal position. Common shoulder injuries are related to poor function of the core.  Below is a photo expressing the common faults.

Conclusion

Most people are never taught how to set this proper core position, and pay the price in weakness and pain. By following some basic patterns, you can maximize performance and feel great doing it.