Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salsa...core?? WTF?

I'm sitting at the Human Motion booth at the Vancouver Adventure & Outdoor Travel Show....
Every time I look to my left I see the strangest thing...
A group of people twisting on a disk waving their arms around like a bunch of maniacs. Curious as to what this 'revolutionary training' was I asked one of the ladies at the booth...
Apparently this is 'Salsa Core'. And supposedly it is designed to train the core...
The lady at the booth even challenged me to try one of their exercises to 'activate my core'. She had me hold one of the disks at arms length out horizontally to the side and lift it up and down in a limited range of motion. Meanwhile the owner of the company told me to be very careful. I said that I'd probably be OK and that I knew how to lift, to which he replied "But this isn't about heavy weights...it's about 'the core'..." You know I always thought that my core would have to be pretty strong to lift nearly 700pounds out of the rack at a bodyweight of just over 165...but I guess I was wrong!
The challenge was to complete 30 reps. After chatting with her whilst doing this exercise she exclaimed "well you've done 35 reps now! Can you feel your core"...to which I replied "Uhhh no..."
Come on - give me a break....
I hate to deride anyone but unfortunately this is an example of some of the worst parts of the fitness industry. In using buzz words like 'core' and marketing to people who don't really want to do any real work to improve their health, fitness and strength they are doing themselves and the industry a massive dis-service.
Let's look at what is really happening in this movement. Standing on a disk and twisting side to side they claim is working the 'core'.

So what is 'the core'?


The core is a large conglomeration of musculature including the TVA, obliques, rectus abdominus as well as all the spinal erectors and muscles of the hip girdle. It allows for force transfer from the upper to lower body and vice versa as well as resisting impact and unwanted torque.

Because of this we consider the primary functional training aspects of the 'core' to be bracing under load (especially in extension) and rotation as well as anti rotation with secondary aspects being trunk flexion, trunk side flexion and extension. Of course rotation for any athletic or even primal functionality needs to incorporate a degree of loading and/or dynamic/explosive movement.

This is why we focus initially on activation and innervation of the core through programs like 'Building a Strong Foundation' but quickly progress the athlete into general strength programming incorporating big, basic lifts - all-round, kettlebell and Olympic lift variations as well as rotational work with cables, bars, dumbells and kettlebells.

I'm sorry - but as friendly and amiable as the crew at the 'Salsa Core' stand were, simply standing on a disk and 'doing the twist' for minutes or hours on end is not going to do much of anything.
And unfortunately not just the attendees trying the exercise but also the demonstrators as well all seemed to exhibit excessive lordosis with anterior pelvic tilting. And when you are trying to 'twist your way to a thinner midsection' in this position you will be at an even greater risk of back injury.

To develop the 'core' and to reduce your risk of low back injury, not to mention creating great posture AND get the aesthetic benefits that most of us want there is no getting around the fact that you have to become STRONGER. And not only that but you need to be doing intelligent strength training, activating the posterior chains and executing the primal movement patterns correctly.
There is no substitute for hard work!

Oh and by the way - I love Salsa dancing! I have danced for years...but I do it for fun!...I leave my 'core' conditioning where it belongs.... in the gym!