Hello beautiful, I've been meaning to write this blog for a really long time! But every time I sit down to write it I change my mind on what I want it to mean, and I also worry about the risk of making something that I want to be explained as simple... Complicated.
For me your "core" is your brain and your entire midsection - minus the arms and legs. If you want to be able to do a solid handstand you need your lats to work, want to be able to jump? You’d better hope your hips and glutes work, ALL IN UNISON WITH YOUR TRUNK! It never comes down to just limbs - it's always FULL BODY AWARENESS. Would you plug your phone into a potato to charge it? No you plug it into a socket that works and turn that socket ON! (I'm going to take a moment to appreciate my own analogy)
A lot of the progressions I teach I was never actually shown, I quite literally fell on my face a lot until I could do something, why? Because I'm awesome and completely different to everyone else! .... But STRANGELY as I delved into more advanced things my face got sorer.. and I didn't get any pay off.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before in a previous blog that the first time I went to a gymnastics club and asked why I couldn't do something the answer I was greeted with was: "YOU'RE NOT STRONG ENOUGH"... Ahem I think you'll find I could deadlift a lot... LIKE A LOT! So clearly this idiot didn't know anything and I definitely didn't cry myself to sleep or bring it up every chance I get, ever. So what had I done? I’d built pretty mediocre strength on an unstable core, my shoulders were literally shit, hips non-existent and the only thing I could do was brace myself as long as both my feet were on the ground. I thought I was awesome, but I realised that yeah, I look pretty good, people THINK I'm strong, but there's an entire other world out there of crazy people that could wipe the floor with me at anything!
When I looked at my "sexy muscles" I realised that all I had built was something that looked nice on a holiday snap and could bring in lots of shopping in one trip - not really ideal for performance. I wasn't working towards anything, just training for the sake of training. This gets you quite far to be honest, but after a few years leaves you quite void.
What is strength? It's a question that can be answered in 500 million ways, can you do a billion sit ups? Can you deadlift 300kg? Can you do twenty backflips in a row? Can you get back to running three times a week in your 40's if someone minds your kids for you? Strength can only be measured by what you can do now and what your background is - are you stronger than you were yesterday? Then hats off to you! Well done! Putting meaning to your training is a big deal to me: if you don't care about what you're doing you're not going to stick at it. If I see someone do something with confidence in themselves and control of their body no matter what it is, I'll be impressed... Even if it's yoga.
Now, if you've managed to stay with me long enough we shall move on to the idea of relatable core strength and how you can implement it into your training. First of all, you have to pick an endgame, so for an example we'll use a hanging L-sit, nothing fancy about it but surprisingly tough! I've met tons of people that can do 100's of sit ups, leg raises and hold a million plank variations for weeks that haven't a hope of even holding a 10 second L-sit, why? Because those exercises don't RELATE to that specific skill, they're still fantastic exercises and your bread and butter but the only thing that will transfer is teaching yourself to lift your legs whist hanging and first things first, can you even hang? Can you hang with your shoulders engaged? Can you lift your knees while hanging? Can you hold your knees up for time? Can you lift your legs if they're straight? Can you lower them with control? Do you see where I'm going with this? There are about 6 variations of the same thing that don't seem very flashy doing for sets and reps, but in relation to the skill you're trying to earn you're actually training your CORE to know what to do in smart progressive stages. In my opinion that makes any of those exercises better as you’ll ACTUALLY build a good foundation and when you finally do decide to try the movement you want it to look effortless.
What looks cooler? Someone looking like they're chilling out doing something incredible? Or the dude screaming his pants off and shaking like it’s the last thing he'll be able to do for the rest of the week?
If you cannot attain a position for whatever reason then that limitation HAS to become your main focus and you should devote time to it morning, noon and night. If you avoid it for long enough it's just going to come back around and bite you later on.
Another example is the handstand, every time you try to kick up or walk up your wrists feel like they're going to explode? Then you NEED to work on stretching and strengthening your wrists every day! (Everyone needs to anyway, you all have shit wrists). Can’t get into a straight position? Or activate your shoulders upside down? Check your thoracic spine and also see are your shoulders even in the correct position for reaching/pushing/pulling above your head (you'd be surprised). If you do not address mobility issues as soon as you find them and try and strengthen a bad motion, you're polishing a turd and you're going to end up hurt!
Accept where you are now, ask your coach for an honest opinion, don't worry if everyone else around can do something you can't…Unless it's juggling, then be very annoyed…. Don't skip stages that you NEED to pass through, if someone can do something better than you its most likely down to they started sooner, were already flexible and maybe just have more free time to practice than you! Never rush or you'll hurt yourself! Be smart, train often and always have a goal in mind.