Why aren’t core assessments the best way to measure core strength?
Traditional tests like sit-ups, crunch tests, or even new tests like holding an uber long plank (FYI: more than a minute does make you injury proof or more lean) may not be the best measure of your core strength.
Functional tests used to tell trainers, or you, about your current status.
What is the core?
It’s not just your lower belly bulge or flat belly. That’s somewhat genetics. Thanks, mom. It’s your gluteal strength and development. What did I just say? Yes, if you develop a strong (and usually more shapely as a result) booty, you will have a flatter belly. The gluteal amnesia most of us suffer from due to too much sitting and lack of strength training targeting those muscles sets you up for a domino effect. You have tight hip flexors. You have weak hamstrings (back of your thighs). Those factors combined with a weak bum (mainly your gluteus maximus) cause more sway back and if you’ve noticed weight relocating to your belly, it’s pulling (and winning) you into a slight arch. Even ever-so-slight, it’s a sign you’ve lost that loving feeling of engaging your core and staying in what we fitness pros call neutral.
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (April 2017)
I personally would no more paint my walls beige than eat ice cream for breakfast. But neutral spine is good. During movement, standing, or sitting, a neutral spine is your friend.
Now, let’s pause. You may be wondering how we got here! We started talking about core. You were in hopes of a fast track to a flat belly. Now we’re talking about neutral spine?
Your core includes all the muscles between your knees and your shoulders. They work as all your body does, in an integrated way. Thus, targeting your abominals with ab exercises does not create a strong core. It absolutely does not create less fat around your midsection. Losing belly fat takes an integration of 7 things if you’re flipping 50! Do not let that overwhelm you. Shifting the answer to 7 integrated parts means you exercise less, you get more sleep, and you can better distribute the load to all areas. Think of it as delegating at work instead of doing it all yourself. So much more gets done in a shorter amount of time. That’s good news if your time demands, or limitations mean you can’t exercise a lot (Flip: a lot of exercise was NEVER the answer). You can level up in another area or two and still get amazing results.
I’ve had participants in the 28-Day Kickstart report 10 lb weight loss and uber energy increases… from the nutrition, sleep, and stress flips I walk them through when they could not exercise at all and didn’t even implement that part of the kickstart (not what I would hope, but this is clearly evidence… you CAN make the best of the moment you’re in even if “it’s not a good time to start”).
P.S. It’s never a good time to start. You’re only going to be less busy/less stressed/have fewer time demands when you’re dead. While you’ve got these things on your plate, the health changes are MORE important. The dose of each just shifts to balance your life.
Movement screens are a better assessment of core strength than some of the traditional core assessment methods. Your ability to squat (rise from a chair counts), to rotate, and do a push up (or at least hold at the top and bottom) are better indicators of your core strength.
How’s your squat? Do it in front of a mirror.
From the front:
Knees wiggle and wobble on the way down? Or can’t you hold them in place?
From the side:
Does your bum come back more than your knees go forward? Does your torso stay upright for the most part instead of bending forward? Do you maintain a slight arch in your back or do you round that lower back?
How’s your push-up (or static plank at the top of a push-up if you need to)
As you hold do you begin to feel stress in the lower back? Or do you fatigue “all-over”?
Do your hips sink or sag in the middle of your heels-to-head line? Or do you have a straight line from heels to head?
Assess your training plan for core:
Do you target weak links with a few isolated muscle activators for a small percentage of your core exercise time?
Do you have exercises most often that integrate the whole core knee-to-shoulders?
Share with me your experience from self-assessment! (It just takes minutes). I love hearing what’s working for you, what’s not, and how I can support you.
P.S. Come back Tuesday – I’m covering the hot topic of protein bars for your summer activities.