Welcome back!

Ahhh, good ol’ “core stability”. Everyone I am sure has heard the term before, but really what is “core stability” and how does it apply in Crossfit??

Core stability is the “the muscular control required around the lumbo-pelvic and hip area to maintain functional stability” (Brukner & Khan). In other words, it is the muscles around your lower back, pelvis and hip and how they work to support you while you are moving.  The core muscles are located close to the spine/pelvis and are responsible for providing stability during movement and include the multifidus, transversus abdominus, diaphragm, quadratus lumborum and psoas major. In addition, gluteus maximus and gluteus medius provide stability around the hip/trunk and pelvis. Weakness or altered muscle activation of any of these muscles may contribute to poor core stability which may lead to lower back/pelvic injury.

What does all this mean in regards to Crossfit??

Basically, if your core is crap, you will struggle with Crossfit and may end up with an injury or re-aggravating a previous injury that was not rehabilitated properly. Keep in mind that a strong core is essential for creating midline stability, which is required for pretty much every movement we do in Crossfit. Ever see someone do a push press and look like this?

 Ouch. I cringe just looking at this photo. This person needs some help pronto.

May I suggest the following….
1. Keep head in line with spine
2. Fully extend the hips by squeezing the glutes
3. Lock the ribcage down by tightening abdominals/core
4. Slightly bring the arms forwards so they are over the midline of the body.

Looking good, Annie T. You don’t get to win Crossfit games TWICE with poor midline control!!!

Here are a couple ways to test your core/midline stability:
The Two-Hand Rule Test (Greg Glassman & Kelly Starrett)

Place one hand at the level of your belly button (thumb to belly button) and the other hand (with the thumb) just under your chest around your xhypoid process (at the bottom of your sternum). Your hands should be parallel. Now squat and pay attention to the distance between your hands at the bottom of your squat. Have your hands become further apart? Or are they touching? If you said yes to either of those statements, chances are good that your core is not functioning properly…or you have some work to do with mobility.

This test looks at your ability to maintain lumbo-pelvic control in a squat, without load. Now, imagine you are doing your Crossfit total, you’ve got 100kg+ loaded on the bar to do your back squat and you collaspe at the bottom of your squat, violating the 2-hand rule, what do you think might happen next? Yep, lower back injury. Crap. That sucks.

Next up

Prone bridge/Plank Test
How long can you maintain this position for without losing good position (neutral pelvis without the lower back sagging) or feeling tension in the lower back? If you cannot hold this position for minimum of one minute, things aren’t looking so good…

So, how did you go? Good, bad, ugly?

If you tested poorly, I would suggest that you get a Physiotherapist to assess your core stability, particularly if you are prone to low back pain and/or have an injury. In the meantime, try to get your core working; start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Find your hip bones on both sides with your hands, then go inwards towards your belly button about 2cm (approximately where your pants sit, unless you are a homey and wear your pants around your knees…). Then gently draw in your lower abdominals and pull up on your pelvic floor (Girls – imagine you are stopping yourself from weeing midstream. Guys – imagine you have your boy bits on a cold steel table and you want to lift them off of said cold steel table). You should feel as though your lower tummy is “drawing inwards”. If you feel your tummy bulging under your fingers, you are using the incorrect muscles. Once you have your core “switched on” try and lift one foot off the floor and see what happens. Does your stomach bulge out? Does your pelvis shift?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you have some work to do my friend. Go see a physio. Before you blow a disc in your back.