There’s a big myth out there that to get more flexible and mobile you just need to stretch more.
Your hips are tight, so you hold long, boring lunge positions.
Your shoulders are tight, so you decide to wake up and go to sleep in a downward dog.
But what if your hips and shoulders aren’t tight because they need to be stretched?
You could potentially stretch for YEARS (something we see often with our clients) and never get the results you’re looking for.
You might even mistakenly think something is wrong with you. Nope.
The real problem is often a lack of deep core engagement. We’re not talking about the superficial “six-pack” muscles (the rectus abdominus) but the deeper core stabilizers.
The most important core stabilizer is the transverse adbominus or TVA muscle.
Here’s the thing:
When the TVA is not showing up to work, it’s the other secondary stabilizer muscles that take over. The hip flexors (like the psoas) and shoulder muscles (like the lats) will end up working overtime and do the job that the TVA isn’t doing.
What’s worse is many people will try to strengthen their core by doing lots of sit-ups and planks.
These are great exercises, but when the TVA isn’t functioning properly, they end up taking over, further overpowering the deeper core musculature.
Remember when you’d do a group project in school and one of your classmates would do nothing, and you’d have to work twice as hard, and still give them credit because it was a “team effort.”
That’s kind of like what’s happening when the TVA isn’t functioning properly. The other muscles have to take over and work twice as hard.
Are you starting to understand the picture now?
If the hips and shoulders are tight because they’re working overtime, no amount of stretching will loosen them up.
It’s not until the right muscles “wake up” and show up to work will the hips and shoulders be able to finally relax.
So, what causes the core to develop amnesia?
Why is it that one of the most important key muscles in the core can get weak and deactivated?
One of the primary causes of this pattern is through disuse. Slouching, too much sitting, or relying on external structure for support are common culprits we see with our clients.
Because our modern lifestyles don’t require us to use our bodies to generate its own internal support.
Couple this with a lack of activity, and a weak, amnesic core is the inevitable result.
Unfortunately, most people try to solve this problem with high intensity workouts, group yoga classes, or other one-size-fits-all methods. These aren’t bad per-se, but when you don’t have the proper core activation, you’re only practicing doing the wrong things over and over.
It’s kind of like piling more weight onto an already compromised foundation.
Breakdown is the only reasonable outcome you could expect.
More exercise is not the answer
Until we learn how to use our bodies properly, in other words, the way they evolved to move over millions of years, we will never be able to move functionally.
We need to develop physical literacy, by learning how to activate key muscles first, then we can build true strength, in the core and the rest of the body.
This is why with all our students the first thing we look at is what is going on in the core. Until we address that, we’re often in an uphill battle.
There are of course, several other key elements we need to address, such as:
- Regaining spinal intelligence (it’s crazy to us how many programs out there don’t directly train the spine, when it’s literally the backbone of your body)
- Building developmental movement patterns (key for building functional movement patterns and reducing pain)
- Unilateral training (to address imbalances from left to right)
- Organic movements that help you build movement intelligence, so you can be more resilient and prepared for the real world
But the main point we’re trying to make is that all of these things, while very important, will never build an unbreakable, resilient body, until you get the core working properly first.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to helping you build true, lasting strength, schedule a breakthrough session now.
We’ll get on a call and map out a strategy to help you overcome your roadblocks and finally wake up in the strong, capable body you deserve.
Written by Jonathan Mead