“Why would I bother doing core?”
I know I know, core exercises are not exactly something that make you want to set your alarm clock even earlier and wake up with a big smile. It is a necessary evil though. Latest when you are injured due to let’s say overload you can hear your doctor and physical therapist nagging at your weak core. So, either you can wait until then and I can say “I told you so” or you can start right now and improve performance and longevity in the sport while you are at it. We love to swim, bike and run and in order to do that demanding sport over time we need to act smart. We cannot expect to trash our body day in and day out with high intensity intervals and give him nothing in return next to sleep, food and hydrating.
Let’s kick off with some background and theory (not the dry – I am about to pass out boring – kind of theory though):
Three different kind of sports like swimming, biking and running all utilize different axis of motions which need a stable “middle” to work efficiently – the core (in fact everything that attaches to the skeleton, not just your abs)
The core is the foundation of force generation. If you have a weak core you WILL cause compensation in order to achieve the desired motion or intensity. A great example would be “the runners knee” – which is almost never a problem at the knee itself, mostly foot or hip area.
Overview of importance of core stability for each sport:
Rotation of the core (no matter which swim style/drive from hips or shoulder) the obliques of the abdominal muscles are dominant and important. You need that core force production to propel yourself through the water.
Each pedal stoke requires strength from mainly the hip and glutes of the core. Without proper muscle activation you will not be able to utilize these muscles and “burn down” your running legs by being quads dominant. Example of inefficiency would be side to side rocking in the saddle, the force has to go straight down through the pedal not anywhere else.
Each step has to absorb 3-7x of your bodyweight. Without proper stabilization the smallest change in biomechanics can have an enormous impact on your running style
Many people assume when they fall apart midway through their run section, their logical consequence would be to train harder and more.
How do you know that is true? Blind guesswork. Make sure to find out which system limited you most next to eventually bad pacing in the race.
A great example is Patrick Lange on Kona 2016 and 2017 when he paced his race perfectly and ran through the field with an incredible strong core. That was not only his cardiovascular strength that got him there, running with such good form after 30k is pure strength and core control.
The three systems to peak performance
In order to have a strong triathlon performance and smash your PB you need much more than just “more” training. Many people like to believe that if they just put in more hours of training (thinking mainly of cardiovascular fitness) you will reach your result. I think that there are three systems necessary to get where you want to be (and further).
One would be the cardiovascular system, basically heart and lungs which need time and a variety on intensity to improve at the best rate. Next to that we have raw muscular strength in the main big muscle groups of the different sports. The final and third system would be (surprise surprise) your core.
The muscles of the core consist of a fine-tuned system. Half of them are asleep though since we spend our days in front of a desk staring at a screen for a living instead of chasing after wild animals to gather food like a few thousand years ago. That fact alone will weaken your core and change joint positions for the worse. Let’s not get all sad about it since there is a solution if you keep reading further and get your butt up to get it done!
The longer the distance in triathlon, the more efficiency plays a role in order to keep pace. The heart and lungs together with your muscle strength can only be used perfectly when the whole clock work is ticking, together with a strong core.
An example would be: as you fatigue latest half way through the run part, your hips are dropping from side to side like Beyoncé and your neck muscles give up on you as well sine they are so used to staring at your keyboard. Chin and head drop, you get a more detailed look of the run course one meter in front of you. What this will cause is a chain reaction which will shorten each step and therefore make you significantly slower. I heard and found it to be true that if you lift your chin just by a few centimeters and keep in level to the floor you can see a difference in pace by around 10 sec per km – free speed baby!
Have a good week everyone,
BECOME THE UNSTOPPABLE YOU,