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The Functional Master: Be A Tree!

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CrossFit is constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement. In CrossFit, functional movement can be described as movement that is initiated from the core to extremities. This means that everything we do starts with the awareness and engagement of our core before we move!

So, what exactly do I mean when I refer to “our core”? Most of us immediately picture shredded abs (Coach VP, I’m looking at you!). The reality is that the core is all of the musculature that supports and protects our spinal column. Basic core strength is what supports our posture. This musculature includes the abdominal muscles anteriorly, and the muscles of the lower, middle, and upper back regions posteriorly. We also use many other muscles like glutes, and hip flexors synergistically to assist in creating a tight core.

Okay, got it. But what does core to extremity imply? This means that we must engage our core first to use our extremities e.g arms, legs- to move large loads over a distance. Consider a tree – a tree consists of roots, a trunk, branches, and leaves. Think of your core like the trunk of a tree – it is the solid most part of your anatomy when you consider it structurally.

Alright, Coach, I get it. But how do I know I’m using my core and how do I learn to use my core?

Here are Coach Thomas’ Top Core Awareness exercises:

1. Side plank. Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm (or hand if doing a tall side plank) directly below your shoulder. Contract your core and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet. Hold the position without letting your hips drop for the allotted time for each set, then repeat on the other side.

2. Tall plank with feet on stability ball. Begin in a tall prone plank position, but instead of keeping your feet on the floor, they will rest on a stability ball. This requires a whole other level of core stability. You will feel the difference!

3. Hollow Hold. Everybody’s favorite. Lie down flat on your back, arms and legs extended. Contract the abs, pulling the belly button towards the floor. Slowly raise shoulders and legs (and head and arms) from the ground, keeping the lower back in contact with the floor. The goal is to find the lowest position that you can hold the arms and legs, without them touching the floor and without your back losing contact with the floor. Hold as long as Coach Jameson says.

4. Kettlebell Deadlift. Place kettlebells on the outside of each foot. Feet should be hip width apart. Set up like you would for a barbell deadlift, focusing on tightening your abdominals before you start. Hinge at the hips and pull yourself down to the kettlebells, keeping your chest tall and your abs tight. Take a big breath and press your body away from the ground using your legs. Lock out at the top by extending your legs and firing those glutes at the finish!

5. Strict barbell press. Start with your feel shoulder width apart. From your front rack position, press the bar overhead (no leg drive!), keeping a tight torso and a straight midline!

My Favorite Cues:

Tighter is Lighter!
Be a Tree!

What cues can you come up with to get you moving core to extremity? Post in the comments below!

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