How To Engage Your Core

Protecting The Lower Back

You have probably heard the term “engage your core” as it pertains to performing a specific exercise or movement. But what does that really mean? Many people mistakenly equate engaging the core with sucking in the stomach. However, this is the opposite of what you want to do and is potentially dangerous as it actually de-stabilizes the core and disrupts proper breathing.

Engage The CoreThe goal when engaging the core is to create a solid mid-section, mainly to protect the lower back and other areas from injury. To do this, you must consciously activate the core muscles. The easiest way I’ve found to describe this to my clients is to say, “If I do this…(motioning a quick punch to the gut)…your natural reaction is to do what?”. The natural reaction to a punch to the gut is always to tighten and brace the core to protect it. You are actually pushing the core muscles out rather than sucking them in. So for example, before you perform a deadlift, you need to consciously activate and engage your core before and throughout the movement to protect your lower back.

This can be tricky at first but it soon becomes habit, and it’s a great habit to have considering over 70% of American’s deal with lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Yours In Health,

Coach Brian Donovan

Winner of Chicago Reader magazine’s “Best Personal Trainer” award, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. Available for personal training in the Chicago neighborhoods of Andersonville, Bucktown, and Lakeshore East.
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