The Core is like a Warship
I mentioned this in my review of my first powerlifting meet that core strength was something that I desperately needed to improve. Missing my third attempt on the back squat by caving forward left a sting to my ego that still hasn’t gone away. Especially as it’s been a barrier for more than two years.
I can still remember the lead up training cycles to the meet. There was great progress being made in hypertrophy for my quads and posterior chain. I had worked to strengthen my erectors too. Yet, core strength was something that was left for improving but never worked upon.
It’s one of those things that I knew was important but didn’t have that 100% dedication to commit to consistently. In one way I realized how much, only doing what you like, holds back your progress. And if I’m ever going to hit that life-time goal of a 650 squat (hey we all have pie-in-the-sky dreams) I need to work with a work ethic that is worthy of biting that pie in the sky.
Analogy of my core collapsing and me falling under 400 lbs squat. No PR. Painting by Auguste Mayer(1805–1890)
Yet, even with the sting of my meet, the level of importance of the core didn’t really sink in until recently. I was shadowing an assessment with physiotherapist, Manni Wong at Form and Function Clinic here in Markham, Ontario. He explained to a patient how core strength affects power output. Manni was saying that our core was like a ship and the guns of a ship are like arms and legs.
When both are strong, they operate like a seaboard artillery battery (I may have exaggerated his original concept but the point stays the same). Yet, if your cannons are stronger than the boat, you’ll bleed power as the boat drifts away from the impact of the cannons charge.
Funny thing is, I remembered this analogy while reading a Napoleonic themed novel. In Sharpe’s Trafalgar by Bernard Cornwell (amazing author, FYI) the main character Ensign Richard Sharpe is given the details on the French built warship, the Pucelle.
The Core is a Warship
She was made out of a thousand oak trees and had multiple decks which enabled her to carry almost 70 guns. She was 178 feet long and in one broadside shot, could fire more artillery rounds than all the field artillery in the Duke of Wellington’s army at the battle of Assaye in India (that’s a lot).
She was very tall too; 70 feet and manned by 600 crewmen. I guess that also means that she had great leverage and lots of mitochondria for higher work capacity. But before this analogy goes off the rails, let’s get back to the point: The Pucelle was built to handle the incredible number and high caliber of guns that she carried.
Likewise, all those anti-rotation and anti-flexion exercises, like dead bugs, planks, Paloff presses, and both their isolating and integrative variations, help make our own ship that much more capable to handle bigger, stronger, and more explosive guns (arms and legs). We’ll be able to generate more force with a strong ship. After all, you wouldn’t put a howitzer on a dingy, would you?
With that imagery in mind, I hope you understand the importance of core strength and hope to continue to make it strong. I’m certainly going to. Hopefully, it’ll be enough to finally see me push past this squat plateau that I’m in.