Are you unsure about the core? I would say that more people have an opinion on the core than anything else in the fitness industry, whether that be core stability, core strength/ endurance or core power. Stability could be considered as the pillar to strength power and endurance.
The following list shows the order in which i progress core training for beginners:
- Zone of Apposition
- Bird Dog, Dead-bugs and Posterior rib cage breathing
- Dynamic/ multiplanar core training
This is my three-stage approach to core training, particularly when working with new clients with limited experience of core activation.
This post will focus on the first stage- Establishing a Zone of Apposition (ZOA), which is focused around optimal diaphragmatic breathing mechanics and anterior (front) rib cage expansion
Zone of Apposition
In the images above, the diaphragm is represented by red line, with the ZOA pertaining to the distance between the ‘umbrella’ shaped top of the diaphragm and its attachment to the lower ribs. The ZOA is controlled by the abdominal muscles which in turn influence diaphragmatic tension.
When we inhale in an efficient manner, the dome shaped part of the diaphragm should be consistent as the air is pushed down into the belly to increase the pressure in a ‘canister’ like action. Think neutral spinal, rib and pelvic position.
However, someone with an exaggerated lower back arch would lose the dome shape of the diaphragm upon inhalation. Instead the dome will flatten, and the ribcage will flair, meaning less lower back stabilisation.
Apart from the obvious excessive lower back arch, other signs of a decreased ZOA are short breath cycles (essentially less air is less air out) and over use of accessory respiratory muscles- neck muscles, pectorals etc.
For more in-depth information on the ZOA, check out:
Establishing the ZOA
My go to exercise for teaching a client how to establish the ‘canister’ effect are is the 90 90 hip lift breathing drill:
Here are the steps to the drill:
- Hips and knees at right angles and feet on the wall. A small ball or foam roll is placed between the knees to engage adductors and pelvic floor muscles.
- Ask the client to push their tongue to the roof of the mouth and inhale through the nose and into the belly. Exhale strongly (should be at least twice as long as the inhalation), simultaneously lifting hips off of the floor or table. Ensure the rib cage drops down as you exhale.
- Attempt to slide the heel down the wall to engage the hamstrings. Instruct the client to keep their hips elevated and to keep squeezing the ball or foam roll. The client repeats step 2 four more times. At the end of each exhalation, ensure the client pushes the tongue to the roof of the mouth before the next breath cycle.
The balloon is not necessary. The right arm positioned over head will allow for more air to enter the right side chest wall (more on Left AIC, Right BC patterns in another post).
The 90 90 hip lift breathing drill can be performed prior to a main session, but I tend to spend no more than 5 minutes on it with clients.
So there you have it- step 1 of my 3 step approach to core training. In my next post, I will speak about my favourite version of two well recognised lower back stabilisation drills- The Bird Dog to row and Dead Bug with short foam roller and expand (excuse the terrible pun) on Posterior ribcage expansion in relation breathing mechanics and core training!