I will be the first to admit that I have said this to clients. Personal trainers use this talk all the time and we don’t even stop to think about whether or not the client really understands. Many clients believe that the core is synonymous with abdominals. They squeeze their abs every time we tell them to tighten their core. However, the core consist of the majority of muscles outside the arms and legs. The core is primarily a stabilizer versus a mover. That is another reason that we suggest tightening is every exercise. Stabilization is key to execution of an exercise appropriately. This article is not to take a look at the science and the execution of the core but rather take a look at breakdowns in coaching. If you want to read a great article on the science I recommend this article by breakingmuscle.com on core function.
I think that as coaches it is our job to break down all the science stuff to simple understandable cues for a client. This is why many great athletes do not make the best coaches. They simply had the ability to execute a movement without truly understanding the steps. Don’t get me wrong there are many great athlete coaches out there but there are many that are not. Clients often require a step by step breakdown on how to get from point A to point Z while many gifted athletes simply get there. This is where the training breakdowns begin. As a personal trainer one of our main jobs is to communicate how to safely perform an exercise. We are also required to help the client understand muscular contraction, stabilization, and movement without becoming confusing. Our task to make sure the client is in the proper position many times rests on whether or not we can help them feel muscular tension. A client that is not able to understand the contraction and which muscle groups are supposed to be used to move the weight cannot offer external feedback to maximize their session. If we as trainers simply stand and count while making sure the client does not hurt themselves then we are not completing the job. We simply become motivators and encouragers rather than “trainers” yelling things like “tighten your core” to no avail. We then hear things like my back hurts, my hamstring is cramping, or I feel this in my neck.
Now I will be the first to admit that I still have a long way to go with all this stuff. Knowledge is plentiful and there is such thing as overeducating a client. The skill is to deliver information in a clear concise understandable manner that helps the client feel successful. Explaining the steps A-Z so they feel comfortable with a movement and learning cues to help them feel muscle engagement. The Core is that cue that leaves so much to be desired. Following tighten your core with squeeze your glutes, tighten your abs, lockout your quads, squeeze your obliques, control you breathing, lats engaged and more give the client a visual picture of the muscles they need to engage. Every week I learn something new or learn something in a new way. When I do I am obligated to pass on the new information to my clients in a way they can utilize it. This requires me to learn it, test it, implement it and then deliver it. Reading and then trying without self experimentation I think is a fail. We need to know what the client is feeling to help coach through the exercise.
All in all a short point I wanted to make is we need to continue to get better as coaches. It happens to the best of us and I am confident we will get better. While “tighten your core” may work for an advanced client I encourage us all to remember that not everybody understands what that may mean. Explaining what that means or more importantly what you mean by it will help all of us coaches do a better job.
Until Next Time
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