Quick question - what is the FOUNDATION for Power Generation in the body? Answer: THE CORE!!!! Now - WHAT THE HECK IS THE CORE?! I mean, there are SO MANY DIFFERENT ideas out there. What are we really talking about?! In a further discussion with Coach Kurt, we'll begin at, of course, THE CORE!!!! "To me, the Core is the link between Upper and Lower Body. This Link tranmsits force, back and forth. In most sports, energy is translated from the legs, through the core, to the upper body and arms. Most 'Striking' and 'Throwing' sports, as well as contact sports, are like this. For example - in a pitcher, a great pitch begins on the base plate. The foot is planted, the legs begin the windup, the energy is transmitted in to the torso as the pitcher literally becomes unbalanced, and the shoulders wind up the arms, to the point that the final extremity to touch the baseball, is literally the edge of the fingers. Imagine doing this 200x/day, for a 20 year career. It's absolutely astounding, especially when the pitcher can intuitively place the ball where he wants, and with different speeds and spins. For cycling, the exact opposite takes place. Energy and the source for high effort begin AT the core, as the body seeks a platform or foundation for stability up above and propulsion down below. The object is to get as little movement as possible in the bike, and get as much energy transmitted from the pedal platform in to the drivetrain. You're not trying to move the bike laterally, and you're not trying to over-emphasize movement in the sagittal plane of the body as well. A STABLE body is an EFFICIENT body. In a sport where literally millimeters and fractions of a second make a difference, as well as economy from an energy expenditure "angle", having a strong, stamina-related torso, will definitely translate in to more Speed, More Strength, and More Stamina. This post will be all about the abdominal muscles and how improving their performance can lead to better cycling. This is an overview of the musculature of the abdominal region in the human body. The outer layers consist of the external obliques, and the rectus abdominis. These are muscles of the outer unit of the abdominal region. The reason they are in the outer unit, is that they are large muscle groups, and are responsible for what we call "Global" stability. Think about it - the 'Guy Wires' that keep telephone poles upright, are critical to our infrastructure's daily maintenance. So, the Abdominals are critical in helping keep us upright and they're important when you're generating a lot of force. EMG's reveal that the abdominals are engaged in just about every single resistance training activity. However, it's important to note that they are engaged much more significantly when individuals are standing, versus sitting or lying. A bike, however, does not translate in to a seated position. You're still transferring force from the arms to the legs, and vice-versa. The next layer is the internal obliques, also considered an outer unit or global muscle. The final layer, and the deepest is the transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis seen above is part of the Inner Unit, which includes the diaphragm, the muscles of the pelvic floor, and small intervertebral muscles of the lumbar spine, called 'maltifidi'. This is a circular muscle, as it wraps around the body, from back to front, above the hips and below the rib cage, almost like a girdle. When it contracts, it literally squeezes the organs and creates a smaller circumference. As you can see here, the multifidi, are attached to the vertebrae, crossing one or two each. They are responsible for 'inter-segmental stabilization' of the lumbar spine. This is a side view of the muscles of the pelvic floor. When they contract, they tend to LIFT the organs of the lower abdominal cavity upward. The diaphragm provides the 'Cap', or 'Cover' musculature for the abdominal cavity. When we take a deep, belly breath, the diaphragm pushes DOWN on the organs of the abdominal cavity. The transverse abdominis, the multifidi, the muscles of the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm, compose the 'inner unit'. The inner unit works like THIS: A deep belly breath is taken, the diaphragm expands and pushed down on the viscera. As we activate our transverse abdominis, a circular girdle is formed around the viscera, compressing it inward. The muscles of the pelvic floor, also on the same neurological loop, LIFT the viscera upward, and the multifidi, also on the same loop, activate to stabilize the lumbar spine. This creates a noncompressable "cylinder" that supports the lumbar spine, and allows for the reliable, transfer of force, between the lower body/pelvis, and the upper torso/arms. If you've ever wondered why it is that your entire 'gut' is THERE, this is the reason. NONE of this will compress, but when you perform high-force pedaling, this unit is a CRITICAL part of the pedal cycle! Now, all of this is overthinking it a bit. BUT, you HAVE to know this, in order to better apply exercises that will optimize this portion of your body. Here are a few questions for you:
- Which of the four abdominal muscles do NOT attach to the rib cage at some point?
- Which of the four abdominal muscles to NOT attach to the pelvis at some point?
- abdominal trauma or low-back trauma,
- any surgery to the abdominal or low-back area,
- a bike crash or injury to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex,
- and even extrended, chronic gastro-intestinal disfunction (because these organs literally plug in to the same neuro-muscular 'socket').