Friday, July 02, 2010

Engage The Cage


Lance Armstrong likes to talk about how cancer survivors are the lucky ones because they are forced to re-evaluate their lives, often leading to a new lease on life. This analogy isn’t reserved for those with cancer. Anyone who has had a major illness, injury, or situation that’s forced them out of their comfort zone is privy to similar “luck”. Challenging situations can lead to us bettering ourselves. So much so that, I would say, most of us define our personalities when the chips are down.

Admittedly that’s a pretty lofty lead-in for a post on core training. But it’s often the smallest details that lead to the biggest improvements. My injury has forced me to re-evaluate what it means to focus on core and posture work, and it’s not a topic I’ve ignored over the years at all. But I can’t help thinking that if I’d done a better job with that aspect of my life (and not just training) I wouldn’t have re-injured myself.

In P90X + Tony talks about “engaging your cage” a lot during the workouts. This, no doubt, came from Isabelle Daikeler’s influence on the program. She’s a Chek-ian (my word for disciples of the Paul Chek school of functional training) where all movement begins with the core. And while trainers ubiquitously champion the importance of core strength the Chekians say it’s the fundamental starting point of all human movement.

Isabelle’s training style can be a little “out there”. She’s worked with me a bit and it’s fantastic cerebral stuff. We tried to have her create a program for us but it was canned by our CEO (her now husband) because he didn’t think we could sell it to the general public (though he must have thought a lot of it himself). She’s worked with a lot of famous athletes, too. She says “some get it, others don’t.” Those who do improve.

I tend to be part of the latter group. I say tend because while I get it I don’t always practice it. Like most athletes I’m far more motivated to do something sports specific, or at least powerful or painful. Her training is balancy and frustrating—like a lot of other training that is took nearly 50 years for me to do religiously. After all, I rationalize that if I can do front levels and weighted leg raises (which most can’t) doesn’t this make my core strong enough?

The answer is yes and no. It’s strong enough but not necessarily engaged enough. Just because you have ample strength does not mean that you’re using it correctly. In fact, it can be the opposite because you can get away with not using it correctly. The getting it aspect of core training is not actually the training; it’s the posture part where you teach your body to focus on its core for every physical action. You actually lead all movements with your core first or, engage the cage.

My injury has forced me to a place where I’d never been. If I lose core rigidity (not a flexed core but a rigid—contract your core to see where it should be then relax and do the movement) for a rep it hurts. I have a reminder, like an angel, to warn me anytime I’m not using perfect form. Coupled with my long 30 rep sets it’s providing an engrained postural change like I’ve not before experienced. Therefore, what appeared to be nothing but a sucky start to my summer has is instead made me one of the lucky ones.

pics: in what apparently is the di rigueur ab pose for climbers in the 80s two fit-looking lads show what a steady diet of off-widths and living out of a van can do for your core.

8 comments:

Cindy Davis said...

would love to know about Isabelle’s training style. Any examples? Love your blog. It always gets me thinking.

Steve Edwards said...

We are working on something Isabelle centric. Not that program but cool. Should be out this winter.

She hasn't published anything. I've tried to get Carl to make her program for "anyone who needs it" as a down and dirty low-budg series but he hasn't wanted to go that way. So you'll have to wait for us to trickle out here stuff over time.

InsaneXer said...

So there's such thing as Core stabilization muscles? hehe I have a lot to learn.

KC said...

Steve,
I too would love to learn more about Isabelle's training. Can't wait to hear more about it on your blog. I'll be reading. Thanks for keeping us inspired. KC

Amanda Harris said...

Yes. I had abdominal surgery for Crohn's Disease six months ago and I've had the same predicament. What's helped me get my strength back? Yoga and Core Synergitics. I'm actually more functionally fit than I was before I got sick.

Steve Edwards said...

The core is mostly made up of stabilizer muscles, which is why you can get away with training core daily. Most core movements work so many muscles, however, that you can still overtrain the area because you are engaing some prive movers as well. This is why you hear many trainers recommend core training daily but we generally don't. There is no defined way to train your core so how often you do it depends on what you are doing.

SantaBarbaraFit said...

Thanks for the post Steve. I too would be interested in what Isabelle was concocting. There is a class taught in Santa Barbara (and privately to some pro athletes) called. FOUNDATION. It is all about stregnthing the posterior chain ( I am told by it's creator) and developed by Dr. Eric Goodman. Several of the LA Lakers and Monsieur Armstrong are engaging their core like never before. It is an amazing workout and quite the mental and physical challenge to re-train how to move your body. www.foundationroots.com
Cheers Steve, thank you for your insights!

SantaBarbaraFit said...

Thanks for the post Steve. I too would be interested in what Isabelle was concocting. There is a class taught in Santa Barbara (and privately to some pro athletes) called. FOUNDATION. It is all about stregnthing the posterior chain ( I am told by it's creator) and developed by Dr. Eric Goodman. Several of the LA Lakers and Monsieur Armstrong are engaging their core like never before. It is an amazing workout and quite the mental and physical challenge to re-train how to move your body. www.foundationroots.com
Cheers Steve, thank you for your insights!