By Anna Vaillancourt
What if I told you that your all-around core strength is one of the essential things to doing well on your ACFT!?
When I say core, I don’t just mean your rectus abdominis (6 pack) but your transverse abdominis (muscles under your 6 pack), obliques (side muscles) and multifidus (your back). These muscles help you do most everyday movements and support you with everything you do.
If your core can’t generate proper tension and be used properly, your ACFT score can suffer. For the deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, and hanging knee tuck all use so much core strength.
Without knowing how to breathe and brace your deep core properly, you will be putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Here is a list of the ACFT movements and how the proper core strength can help you
Deadlift- brace the core, breath out as you bring the bar off the ground. If the load is overly heavy and near your max weight, a Valsalva Maneuver can be used (holding your breath as you perform the movement to create more pressure and tension). The pressure isn’t always the best thing, though, so I always recommend the use of Valsalva sparingly. Also, lat and hamstrings are used to make the deadlift an all-around full-body movement. So, make sure when you set up for your lift, you have tension in your hamstrings and your lats with your whole foot planted on the ground to generate the most power.
Standing power throw- If you are familiar with CrossFit movements, it is almost like doing a superman (good spinal extension is needed). Your core comes into play with having great multifidus muscles to help with generating more significant extension when you throw. Also, hip flexor strength is required to help create tension in the front of the body when you extend and throw if you can not open your hips and squeeze your butt fast; you will lose some of your power. Generate tension in your hip flexors and keep your ribcage down (core engaged)for a good throw. Also, if flexibility is lacking, opening your hips and squeezing your butt may be hard, which can cause a weaker throw. Working ok a few extension movements such as cobra or upward dog can help with opening those hip flexors and feeling that extension. The couch stretch is also a favorite of mine.
Hand release push-ups- The key points here upper body endurance along with core strength. Keeping your core tight will help you stay ridged and get up off the ground versus not getting your butt off the ground because you are inch worming. Practice planks and plank variations and think of drawing your belly button to your spine to keep from sagging in the middle. If your core can not handle this position, no matter the strength of your arms, you will struggle through the movement because the needed tension is not there.
Hanging knee tuck- Key points here, grip strength, lat strength, and oblique, and core strength. You will see where you lack in strength after a few reps if you start swinging around versus staying ridged. Since this is strict, you will need all the tension and deep core strength. To succeed at these, you will have to make sure at the beginning of each rep you engage your lat in almost a lat pull up and then start tucking your knees as you pull your knees up, breath out to engage your core, and keep yourself from swinging. The breath out will make it, so your core naturally contracts and will help your knees come up. Is your problem turning around between reps? Oblique strength can be the problem along with lat endurance. If you keep your lats slightly engaged the whole time along with the tension in your core, you won’t have many issues. This will, for sure, be the problem event for most, but use your core and breath to help you through it.
Sprint Drag Carry- This event uses short bursts of running along with dragging and carrying while out of breath. This event translates very well to real-life situations. The drag will be very beneficial if you get into almost a squat position as you pull, why? Because the closer you are to the weight, the more direct your line of force will be, aka your pulling power is more. Trying to pull in a fully erect position will end up hurting your back when you get tired because you will start leaning over when you are tired. So get into a nice squat position and use your whole legs to pull the weight, chest up, core engaged breath deeply as you pull. The side shuffle it will also be very beneficial to stay shoulders stacked over hips to keep a good position. Lastly, the carry is a farmer carry, very functional; being able to breathe as your deep core is engaged will be the key to this. Again, shoulders stacked over ribcage and hips will help you use your whole body to carry the weight instead of it flying around because you are shifting the weight all around. It will stay close to the body and steady if you remain stacked. So breath out, engage the core and walk with a purpose.
This article may be a different outlook on the events, but I promise the importance of core (deep core) strength will help you greatly in the end. ACFT is upon us, and all we can do is adapt and accept it. This test may be new and frustrating to some but know that it will only make you better at your job and be able to be ready to protect the ones you love that much better.
I hope this information finds you well and pushes you to get out there and start trying these new movements without fear. Fear can drive us to avoid it, but remember, it will only make you stronger if you do succeed. So, get out there and get it done!
BS Exercise Science Health Promotion
Certified Pre-&Postnatal Coach