Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Core - /kôr/
Noun 1. the tough central part of various fruits, containing the seeds. 2.the central or most important part of something. verb1. remove the tough central part and seeds from (a fruit). "peel and core the pears"
Does anything in the definition above allude to a large mass of muscles surrounding the spine and central nervous system that supports the human body? Please tell me, someone out there, am I missing something? I do, however, appreciate the pronunciation of Core as ‘kor.’ I now have a new found respect for Michael Kors. He most definitely has a fated six pack, am I right?
I’m here to argue that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have a “core.” I find myself in over 200 fitness classes throughout the year and I commonly hear the instructor shout “use your core.” I then glance around the room and see old men bracing like they’re going to take a shit and women turning blue because they are sucking in their late night taco bell. After being a movement master teacher for close to 20 years I’m here to tell you, you are not an apple and therefore you don’t have a core.
First we must examine why you are not an apple?:
Let's look at common phrases around apples that make little to no sense. “A” is for apple and a lot of other things. American as apple pie, and pizza, and football, and currently Donald Trump, womp, womp. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree well sometimes it does in the East Coast hurricanes or Oklahoma tornados. An apple a day is nice but it hardly keeps the doctor away in the age of big pharma. I never compare apples and oranges although studies have shown they have vast similarities. And no, one rotten apple does not spoil the whole bunch. You are not the apple of my eye because I simply do not know you unless my friends and family are reading this to which I thank immensely for their support.
The “big apple” is in fact an island made of trash and skyscrapers: the best and very worst of humanity on a five by thirteen mile slab. I should know because I lived in New York City for over ten years teaching people what the hell their abdominals are. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her musician ex-husband Chris Martin’s daughter is not an apple despite her name. You are not even your various Apple products or devices. Thanks Steve! We love your apples!
Even if your iPhone has become a new appendage, Alan Watts would argue that you are not your iphone just like you are not your hand. You are not rotten to the core which leads us back to the point. You are not an apple because you, in fact, do not have a core!
That’s right folks, the Fitness industry has been lying to you since your high school gym class. “Core “ is just one of the many phantom, bullshit buzzwords the fitness industry likes to throw out and see if it sticks. I will use BSFW (Bullshit Fitness Word) moving forward.
Actually your "core" has been an industry buzzword for some time now. At one point it actually had some relevance. After the industrial revolution in the 1900s, more and more sedentary jobs were created, folks began sitting in cars, and by the 1950s sitting in front of the TV. Sitting around all day and not using the body as nature intended, leads to a slumpy dumpy mid-sections making man appear more like a humpty dumpty than an apple. Maybe they should’ve started calling it the “yolk.” And don’t even get me started on the way office chairs, bucket cars seats, and airplane seats are designed.
However, just about every Pilates studio, personal training facility, bootcamp franchise and fitness infomercial markets to you by using the BSFW "core." Hell, even the Ab Bean now tightens your "core." Fitness companies know that when you see “core” you think "I need to lose some fat around my tummy." Their marketing teams are trying to marry this BSFW with your told need to “lose weight” to pry your hard earned moola from your wallet. You know, the fat wallet that sits in your back pocket that you inevitably sit on all day.
Who here studied anatomy and applied it with physiology? I ask because I’m on a mission to keep you engaged. Did you get the muscles "engaged" pun just then?
Why you don’t know how to “use your core”:
I remember opening the four hundred pound anatomy book with its latin root words and challenging illustrations, and feeling vastly overwhelmed. With something as ancient as the human body, how have we not come up with easier ways to learn about our anatomy? With dust flying off the book, this was the bible and pandora’s box to my calling and I found the available text books highly demotivating. It was like having everything you've ever wanted on a date on paper, but in reality it turn out to be a visually demanding, complicated nightmare. So here I am at an attempt to place a few names on a few important muscles buried deep in the treasure chest of your body. I will give you an imaginative comparison to help you understand where all of these muscles and bones live in your body and what they do to help you.
I’m here to debunk this BSFW for you, teach you what actually exists between your arms, legs, head, and genitals, and with any luck, help guide you on how to choose a personal trainer, workout regimen, etc. I am here to remind you that you are your best friend, your best doctor, your best mother, etc. if you let yourself be. So ultimately, with a little education and self-help, you know best. Teach yourself about your body. After all, it’s YOUR body. Get to know it before you start pushing daisies.
What they actually mean by “core”:
The development of the deep and superficial muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body, especially the abdominals and muscles of the back.
Core training theory:
The purpose of training "your core" is because somewhere along the line of evolution we became lazy, overweight sacks of adipose tissue and the deep muscles of the abdomen and muscles surrounding the spine no longer function as they were intended to. Your core muscles are supposed to fire milliseconds before your body engages in any movement or aggressive exercise. This "firing" protects the spine by creating a tight supportive column of muscle that prepares you for aggressive movement. The problem is you all know this and yet you get your personal trainer and you still have no idea how to engage your psoas for instance. Don’t worry, I’ll explain this pig latin muscle to you in the next section.
In today's perverse exercise culture the market gurus and pseudo trainers have you doing tons of stability ball crunches, weird bosu ball exercises, reverse crunches etc. Most of these are a total WOT (waste of time) and provide little efficiency in getting a stronger torso and in the process losing body fat.
Losing body fat and exercising your abdominal muscles are NOT created equal. The real reason why you can see the Calvin Klein underwear models six-pack is because they have very little body fat and actually the Rectus-abdominal or 6-pack is one of the wimpiest abdominal groups of the bunch, and not to mention photoshop. Calm down, I’ll explain this more in the next section as well.
In the early days of this core focused training a lot of trainers started training athletes with a focus on this. They put away the heavy squats, cleans and deadlifts and had these athletes "draw in the core.” Let’s stop right there. Does anyone out there know what this means? Give me a practical application of what this means? I’m not trying to go all Amelia Bedelia on you but most people will pull in their stomachs and hold their breath. As one of my dance professors used to say “suction In.” Sucking in your stomach is wildly ineffective. When you hold your breath you don’t breathe and when you don’t breathe you die and this article series becomes completely worthless.
What these personal trainers created were a bunch of football players who couldn't effectively block and tackle or move an opposing player out the way. The upside of all this core training is these athletes sure looked cute when they got their belly buttons pierced and headed to the beach in a mankini. Total and utter hogwash, typical of most trainers out there.
What any good strength and conditioning coach always knew and what CrossFit has brought back into the light is the absolute necessity of functional movements. These are movements you do in everyday life. Squatting to poop in the woods, picking up a penny off the sidewalk, putting your booze on the top cabinet over your head. You will now be a person who is " harder to kill and more useful in general". That last quote is my favorite from strength and conditioning coach Mark Rippitoe.
I know, we now have made you a core training super cyborg with all these old fashion moves but you're still a little soft around the midsection right? Guess what? This has very little to do with the exercise selection and more to do with four main men, Papa John, Captain Morgan, and Ben and Jerry. Deep beneath their satisfying pleasure they are all made of the same thing. Sugar. Sugar is fat more than fat is fat. I am not a nutritionist so I’ll stop there. All I know for sure is when you nourish your body like a mother would, your body is happy and will train like an athlete versus a prima donna bikini model. You will find yourself performing like an olympic gold medalist combined with a Navy Seal wrapped in a suit of body armour and you'll feel better naked in no time! For those of you who are a little more stubborn you can still find a good Pilates DVD or the abdomizer online. Good luck with that! In the meantime, I’d like to offer you a massive gift in this series of rants as to why you are not an apple and you don't have a "core." It’s hands on so get off your ass, on the floor, and start feeling around. Stay tuned...