De-Mystifying "The Core"

Jessica Schatz

“I want to work on my core!”

Good for you, because all movement starts at “the core.” I hear individuals tell me they want a stronger core as each one indicates his or her mid-section. Perhaps you have expressed this very goal. Not surprisingly, “the core” is currently THE “buzzword” in the fitness industry. And, “the core” is one of the most significant aspects of my professional work.

Most people have an incomplete understanding of “the core” and have little to no understanding of core “stability.” I am dedicated to enlightening people with a full and accurate understanding of these vital elements of health and fitness.

What is “the core”?

Diagram:  © The McGraw-Hill Companies

Diagram: © The McGraw-Hill Companies

Perhaps you believe “the core” means abs, and maybe the obliques and low-back muscles. These beliefs are only partly true. In fact, your “core” comprises a complex series of muscles that extend far beyond your abs, and include almost everything besides your arms and legs.  In this discussion you will learn that “the core” is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body.

MY DEFINITION of “the core”:

From lengthy research, scientific study, and hands-on experience, I devised the correct and most useful definition of “the core” that is original and unique to my teaching:

“The CORE is any muscle, or group of muscles, that promote or enhance pelvic and/or spinal stabilization.”

I repeat this to help you digest it: “The CORE is any muscle, or group of muscles, that promote or enhance pelvic and/or spinal stabilization.”

If you think of your core muscles as a sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body, you will understand that your arms and legs will function best if core muscles are strong and flexible. Physical motion ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. When you hit a tennis ball, mop the floor, pull open the file cabinet, or make any other movement, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it.

The importance of core stability.

Every client I see learns as a first step the importance of stability and its connection to core strength.  Health and fitness magazines, healthy lifestyle TV shows, fitness trainers, rehab therapists, and general doctors mostly fail to educate people regarding core stability.

In order for “the core” to function optimally, it requires a stable pelvis and spine. Pelvic and spinal stability are the basis of everything physical. They are the body’s central foundation – basically, its epicenter.  While core strength is the ability to produce force, core stability is the ability to control the force we produce. With this control we can experience improved balance and stability, better posture, less back pain and more functional strength for all movement.

Professional and amateur athletes who work with me find that core strength absolutely improves their sports performance. Research has shown that athletes with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury. Getting ‘the edge’ in your game often comes down to having a stronger core.

Four out of five Americans at some point in their lives suffer debilitating, sometimes excruciating low back pain, unaware it can be prevented by exercises that promote a well-balanced, resilient core. In our normal daily lives we lift, twist, bend to put on shoes or scoop up a package, turn to look behind us, sit in a chair, or simply stand still. All these activities rely on core muscles.

Photo  courtesy of Howard Schatz / © Schatz

Photo courtesy of Howard Schatz / © Schatz

The spine, stability, and core strength.

Posture and alignment immediately tell me someone is putting his or her body at risk.  A client came to me and complained of shoulder pain that began after an intense cardio/sculpt class at the gym. Her instructor advised that she increase her weights as the lifting became easier.  In theory, the concept of increasing weight to build strength has value, BUT - stability must first be there.  This particular client compromised her posture because she lacked the stability necessary to execute the exercise with excessive weight. One can’t build shoulder strength without correct scapular stability, and, scapular stability requires spinal stability. Most importantly, spinal stability depends upon proper core strength!

I guided the client to work on simple core strength and stability exercises involving full body movements. These maintained the proper balance of mobility and stability, alignment, and correct posture. This process kept her shoulder safe, and she progressed successfully from there. As her shoulder pain diminished, gradually our exercises became more advanced and intense. The client got stronger, more stable, and remained pain free.

My teaching on “the core.”

My mission is to motivate people to live better lives.  Thus, I created a methodology that specifically guides you to understand the mechanics of core work with proper exercises and techniques, so that you can maintain “core strength” on your own.  At the onset, I teach clients to develop core strength and stability by incorporating Full-Body Integration (“F.B.I.”).  My clients approach any action or activity in a concrete and goal-oriented manner. When you take purposeful action and develop mind-body awareness, you harness and utilize both an intellectual and a physical aspect of the core’s function.

Because of the mind-body connection, you have the capacity to sense what your body needs and when certain physical sensations are good for your body. One needs to hone this mindfulness to develop and increase a keener intuition and a stronger mind-body connection. You will be able to better sense the difference between a “burn“ you may think indicates you are getting stronger, and a “burn“ that is actually an alert that the exercise may inflict bodily pain and/or injury. You can and must learn to have control over your body as opposed to being at its mercy.

In conclusion, I hope you find that these concepts and tools have helped you. I will happily discuss any other related information with you, and I encourage you to reach out and contact me with your questions or comments.

Everyone of you has the opportunity to live a better life if you transform more than just your surface. I offer these tools to give you the power to shape your life from the inside-out, starting at the core, and connecting your mind, body, and spirit. My mission is to help you harness and leverage your own power to feel better, function better, and live better.
— Jessica Schatz, The Core Expert™

© 2017 Jessica Schatz

Rick Krusky