Core stability and pulling your belly button in

It seems it is not possible to talk to any triathlete or read any triathlon magazine, whether it be about injury or improving performance, without someone saying ‘activate your core’. So this is my pet hate… The belief that core stability is all about activating a single abdominal muscle and in activating this muscle you can prevent and/or fix all injuries. To explain I’ll have to go into a little of the technical stuff first.

So when did core stability become synonymous with drawing your belly button towards the spine – attempting to activate your transversus abdominis? I can’t tell you exactly but here is my theory. Since the 90’s up until the present day a number of researchers around the world have been investigating abdominal muscle recruitment patterns in subjects with low back and pelvic pain. A number of these researchers published papers suggesting that in some people with low back and pelvic pain, abdominal muscle recruitment patterns were altered and in particular the activation of the transversus abdominis. Pretty soon anyone with low back or pelvic pain was being taught to activate their transversus abdominis by drawing their belly button towards the spine. I am simplifying things a little but this is the gist of it.

Just like the early research into barefoot running, it was picked up by the media (sometimes misinterpreted) and reported as gospel. Soon everyone with an injury from a hammer toe to headache was being taught to draw their belly button towards the spine because that is where all injuries start! Isn’t it? At some point, to a lot of people around the world, this activation of your transversus abdominis became the very ‘core’ of core stability. I’m not saying the abdominal musculature isn’t important in core stability. Far from it. I am saying the emphasis on transversus abdominis training and activating your core by drawing your belly button towards your spine for all types of injury is wrong. Next week I hope to have time to explain how to improve your core stability the right way!

This week’s swim session is our long swim to help develop aerobic capacity. We’ll be using fins and pull buoys so if you don’t want to upset the coach make sure you bring yours. We’ll also have a long run option, an intervals run option and a technique based run option. So many choices! I came across this little video of Jan Frodeno which is pretty cool. In particular I like his final comment. Always keep this in mind.

Some of you wanted some homework to do so here it is. Before next week’s session I would like you to complete this swim set including two time trials to calculate your CSS which we will use in future sessions. For more info check out the CSS link.

Warm up – 200m FC easy.
Drill set – 4x50m with pull buoy scull #1 15m into FC 35m. 10 sec recovery.
Build set – 150m moderate, 100m fast, 50m very fast. 20sec recovery between each effort.
Time trial – 400m FC.
Active recovery – 4x50m easy FC (use fins if you like). 20 sec recovery between each 50m.
Time trial – 200m FC.
Cool down – 200m of your choice of stroke or combination of stokes.

Use the results of your time trials to calculate your CSS using the link above and we will use this in future sessions to improve your lactate threshold. So this will be a good test to see if when we prescribe homework i.e. on your own session plans, it actually gets done. We will be asking for your own CSS results in next week’s session.

See you Sunday. It’s going to be cold so be prepared! Tim (LFTC Coach).