By Adam Parrelli

In the health and fitness industry, the term “core” has been thrown around quite a bit. I assure you it is more than just well defined abs! What I’m about to talk about is far less sexy, hence why you won’t see it on instagram. 

So what is it? By definition it is a central part of a system. Makes sense in a nondescript way for us humans. An analogy I use to define the components of the core is the ‘can’ analogy. You’ll have to excuse me as I am unsure who coined this, so credit is due to whoever did.

Let me explain it to you!

The CAN analogy

Grab a can of coke or a tinnie. The can is a cylinder made up of a roof, floor and continuous wall. If we put this into anatomical terms. The roof is diaphragm (and rib cage), abdominal wall, back muscles, spine and it’s intersegmental muscles and the pelvic floor. A little more than just a six pack. 

For a long time the emphasis was on the walls (abdominals), in particular a muscle called the transverse abdominis. One way we could view it contract was by creating a brace (sucking the belly button to the spine). This essentially dents the can. Which one is stronger? The full can or dented can? 

I’m hoping you said out loud the FULL can!

The can or “core” is strongest when it maintains it’s cylindrical shape. No dents or tapering in of the front, back and sides. We then use breathe to regulate intra-abdominal pressure i.e. fill the can.

From here started the core stabilisation movement. Remember stability is a dynamic process which requires complex interactions between multiple systems. Rather than being rigid the whole time. So learning how to maintain integrity of the can/core in complex and varied movements is the key to learning how to maintain ones core. 

Now let's talk about the rest of the can. The roof and floor. The diaphragm and pelvic floor. The way this system works is that the diaphragm lowers on the inhalation or breath in, which forces the pelvic floor to respond due to the increase in intra-abdominal pressure. The Pelvic floor is elastically loaded during the breath and lowers, acting like a piston in an engine. The opposite action occurs when we exhale. Being able to maintain the cylindrical shape of the can to allow the diaphragm and pelvic floor to communicate and act like a piston allows for most efficiency of the core. 

So in order to train your ‘CORE’ it is imperative that all facets of this system get trained. 

Disclaimer: if you do have pelvic floor, low back or abdominal issues please consult your health care professional.