By Jeff Mock, 4th Dan Taekwondo Black Belt, Kickboxing Coach and Personal Trainer.
Whether you’re into kickboxing or taekwondo a lot of the movements in both martial arts rely on core strength and balance. A strong, stable core is from where those fast, explosive kicks and strikes come. Your core is your source of power.
Engage your core!
Hands up who has heard this countless of times in class at Cascadia Martial Arts? This is something many coaches say but very few people actually know how to do. The first thing people do when they hear “engage your core” is to suck in their stomach or flex your ‘6 pack’. Although this is one aspect of core engagement, it is not the entire picture and definitely not what most coaches mean.
So what is this ‘core’ thing?
Think of your core as a ‘belt’ which wraps around your midsection, made up of several groups of muscle in the torso.
• The muscles that make up your 6 pack (the rectus abdominis)
• The muscles underneath your 6 pack (the transverse abdominis)
• The muscles on the sides (the internal and external obliques)
• The muscles on your back (the QL’s and erector spina)
• The pelvic floor muscles
Two things need to happen to engage your core when you draw from that power. One, you need to tighten this belt, and two, squeeze your pelvic floor. What these two combined actions do is help support the spine and create a base on which the rest of the body can push off.
So you can:
Action 1: Tightening that belt
Place your hands just below your ribs, now cough. Feel the ‘belt’ tighten around your mid-section? That is your core. The idea is to be able to engage and feel the belt wrap from the front all the way to the back.
Now when you’re sparring, hitting the heavy bag, or just practicing your technique, engage your core by breathing out instead of coughing! This is why you hear people make that hissing noise in kickboxing class and why you have to ‘keup’ in taekwondo!
Action 2: Turn on the pelvic floor muscle
The second part of core engagement is turning on the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles you use when you try and hold in your pee!
THE GOAL is to engage the core properly WHILE STILL BREATHING. Keep practicing tightening that belt and turn on the pelvic floor muscles, and understand what it feels to ‘engage the core’.
Watch out for my next posts where I’ll be sharing my favourite core-strengthening exercises that will help release that power kick and deliver a punch with a knockout force! 💪 – Jeff
📷Photo credit: Sofia Katherine Photography and Amanda Clarke
About the Author: Jeff is a 4th Dan blackbelt in World Taekwondo, and a Certified Personal Trainer through the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. He is currently working on his Kinesiology degree. When he’s not teaching kickboxing, or yelling “holy buckets” during taekwondo classes, he is on the field, coaching football in his trademark ugly bucket hat. Jeff enjoys weight training, martial arts, and lunges; and going on adventures with his puppy, Koa, and his girlfriend Kiana. Find Jeff on Instagram @jeffmock72