CORE CONTROL – what does it mean? When do you activate it?

This topic was brought up during a recent coffee date with Another Person (AP).  The conversation went something like this:

AP:  I’m feeling really good about my core these days
Me:  Well done you.  I know you’ve been doing a lot of work on it with those back issues you had.
AP: Yes, I can hold a plank for a minute now.  I’ve still got problems with my back though.
Me:  Really?  That’s interesting.  Just humour me as I promised I wouldn’t put on my PT hat during our catch up – when I say “turn on your core” what do you think it means?
AP:  <rolling eyes> I’m not one of your clients but okay, I’ll play.  It means to pull your belly button in, or sucking in your tummy and making it hard so you <insert air quotation marks here> “activate your core”.  Did I pass the test?
Me:  Sure.  I want to ask you another question
AP: <more rolling of eyes>  I feel sorry for your clients
Me:  When do you  <insert air quotations of my own> “activate your core”?
AP:  When I’m exercising.  Do you think I’m stupid?
Me:  I really don’t want to wear your latte, but……… what about when you’re lifting things at home?  Or when you’re pushing your garden wheelbarrow, or when you lift your groceries into the car?
AP: <blink blink>  Are you kidding me?  Who does that?  Honestly, you’re over the top with this fitness thing.

I didn’t end up wearing my companion’s latte, but it raised a very interesting topic for me.
Why are PT’s always banging on about engaging your core, and not explaining when to use it and why?

Yes, it’s an essential part of any good exercise program to be told to “ensure your core is turned on” with possibly an instruction like “pull your belly button to your spine” or “brace your tummy as if you were expecting to be punched”.
But did you know that if you’re not “activating your core” during everyday life, and not just in an exercise class or program that you’re doing yourself a is-service?
Gardening?  Use your core – it will protect your back.
Wheeling a wheelbarrow?  Use your core – protect your back by taking some of the load off your back
Standing in the kitchen? Use your core – it will help to promote better posture
Lifting groceries out of the trolley or car?  Use your core – protect other parts of your body that shouldn’t be bearing the load

A strong core does help promote good posture and protect other areas of your body that weren’t designed to take heavy loads, providing that you activate it in everyday life and not just during exercise.
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