Core, core, core.
We are always talking about keeping our core tight, stabilizing the core, training the core, but what exactly is the core? The core is comprised of muscles in the front, side, and back of the midsection. All these muscles work together to create core stability which is required when working out, especially when it comes to CrossFit. Every time you pick up a pair of dumbbells, get under a heavy barbell, or swing a kettlebell, your core is firing to prevent excessive spinal motion (i.e. rounding your back, overextending, or leaning to one side). Needless to say it plays a very vital role in CrossFit!
If you want a nice visual explanation check out the Instagram post from Squat University to the right.
In order to support any kind of heavy load properly we need to have a strong and stable core. Like I said, you have probably heard us talk about this a lot, and I have even seen some people put in some extra work to train their core.
People sometimes perform exercises such as sit-ups, GHD sit-ups, or strict toes to bar/hanging knee raises thinking it will give them a stronger core. Unfortunately these exercises do not build a stronger core, they just build strength in that particular motion and aesthetics. If you were trying to build your toe to bar or sit up ability they would be great options, but they will not help you support heavy weights.
In order to build core strength we have to perform movements that train the core to resist motion. Some good examples of this are planks, single arm exercises (presses, carries, RDL), and heavy carries or walks (yoke, dumbbell, barbell). Training these types of movements is going to help increase our core stability. We like to recommend the The McGill Big 3 For Core Stability – Squat University, as a starting point for addressing the core as a weak link. Core stability is ultimately what we need when it comes to supporting external loads which we do A LOT of in CrossFit.
Do Sit-ups Work?
In CrossFit we are always trying to focus on how to improve our physical performance. While having a 6 pack may look great, it does not have any correlation to becoming physically stronger. Do not be fooled by a lot of these flexion movements (sit ups, toes to bar), they will not help you build a stronger core. Do not get me wrong, I am not bashing any exercises that are of that nature, they serve their purpose. When it comes to getting stronger though, we want to make the most of our time and ensure that we are following proper training protocols in order to do so. This is why we need to perform movements that help us prevent excessive spinal motion.
Performing core strengthening movements like the ones we have discussed above can be fairly tricky. Details such as proper bracing and movement patterns need to be on point for the exercises to be the most effective. These movements are not simply the type that you just do them and they work wonders, they take a lot of concentration to be effective. In saying that everyone can perform them and everyone can benefit from them. So please ask a coach to give you some good core exercises to help train your core!