Discover Your "Inner Core"

Did you know that you have a hidden “inner core”? No, I’m not talking about your six pack’s current status -- “in the cooler”, I’m referring to a deeper layer of abdominal muscles that has the ability to turn your midsection into a powerful force transmission system.

Successfully doing things like swinging a bat, kicking a ball, or picking up a bag of groceries requires your inner core to activate. When these muscles contract, they support the spine and create leverage; like a weight-lifters belt that works from the inside out.

Unfortunately, most core exercises, like sit-ups and crunches, are ineffective for training the inner core. As a result, many traditional core training programs can actually cause problems like poor posture and back pain. In just a few steps, however, you can begin unlocking the potential of your inner core, reducing pain and improving performance.

Identify - Simply learning how to engage your inner core is the first step. Perform this exercise before and after you exercise.

Drawing-In Maneuver (DIM): Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lay one hand on your abdomen and take a deep breath (your stomach should rise slightly). As you exhale, imagine that you are pulling your belly button down and slightly up. Hold for 10 seconds then release, repeating two more times.

Engage - Being able to contract your inner core while moving is the next step. Perform 10 reps for each of these exercises as part of your regular warm-up routine.

Toe Taps: Begin exactly like the DIM. Hold the contraction while slowly lifting one foot an inch or two off the ground. Slowly lower your foot and repeat with the other side before releasing.

Quadruped Reaches: From your hands and knees, hold the DIM and reach your right arm forward (thumb pointing up) and left leg back. Try not to shift or wobble. Hold for 10 seconds. Release your hand and knee back to the ground and repeat on the other side.

Look-back Lunge: From standing, perform the DIM. Step into a lunge with your left foot and at the same time, reach your right arm back at an upward angle. Lower your arm back down to your side and step your foot back to standing before releasing. Repeat with the right leg and left arm.

Integrate - The last step is to work your inner core during your regular exercise routine. The following are just a few strategies to get you started.

Work from your feet, not your seat: Use cable pulley machines and resistance bands to do chest presses, rows, and other exercises while standing.

Load asymmetrically: When performing dumbbell based exercises like lunges, shoulder presses, and squats, use less (or no) weight in one hand. Perform half of your reps before switching the dumbbells to keep things even.

Get on the ball: When appropriate (maxing out is NOT appropriate) use a stability ball or BOSU ball for chest presses, planks, bicep curls, and more.

Need More Core Ball?
For more ways to work on a stability ball, check out “Core Performance” by Mark Verstegen or the more technical “Scientific Core Training” correspondence course by Paul Chek.


“Transversus Abdominis and Core Stability: Has the Pendulum Swung?” by Dr. Garry T Allison

“The Inner Unit - A New Frontier in Abdominal Training” by Paul Check

“The Role of the Transverse Abdominis in Treating Low Back Pain” by Michael Reinhold, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC, CSCS

“Core Stability Basics” by Derek Mansfield, Physiotherapist
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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. I recently began my one year commitment to living Paleo. I am currently a fat very out of shape middle aged woman. :) I have been implementing Planks into my day & will now give these a try as well. Thanks for posting.

  2. Congratulations on taking the plunge! Keep me updated on your transformation and have fun doing your planks!