Every house requires a solid foundation to ensure the structure stays strong against the strain of everyday wear and tear. Without a good foundation, your structure is most likely going topple over or crumble to the ground under the pressure of the elements. Your body – in training – is that brick house. Your core is that foundation, and without sturdy core muscles, you too will crumble. Intensive core training will not only keep you on your feet and injury free, but it’s also beneficial for correcting poor posture which can hinder your gains in terms of strength and cardiovascular ability.
The Inner Unit
This part of the core is most often ignored, but is by far the most important – it acts as the stabilizer for your trunk.
Paul Chek describes the Inner Unit as:
The functional synergy between the transversus abdominis and posterior fibers of the obliquus internus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, multifidus and lumbar portions of the longisssimus and iliocostalis, as well as the diaphragm.
An untrained inner unit can lead to lower back pain and even spinal injuries due to instability. Further, the inner unit of the core is under separate neurological control than the larger outer muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique and anterior fibers of the obliques internus). This separation allows the inner unit to too often go untrained as traditional abdominal exercises and gym equipment fail to target its muscles. Even more severe, over training the larger muscles causes a disruption to the balance between the inner and outer units, and the inner muscles are no longer able to stabilize the larger portion of the core. It is when this imbalance occurs that one may start to experience, sometimes excruciating, lower back pain. A drop in strength gains may occur, and poor posture is inevitable.
Over training the larger muscles may lead to disruption of the balance of the inner muscles
The trick to stabilizing the inner unit of the core is to start small. It may seem like a giant step backwards from hanging leg raises and crunches, but learning to engage and train your inner unit is often a workout in itself. Using stabilizing exercises will help you learn how to activate your weaker inner unit.
Inner Unit Exercises
- “The Inner Unit: A New Frontier In Abdominal Training”; IAAF Technical Quarterly: New Studies in Athletics, 4/99