You Can Do It, Put Your Core Into It!

Are you singing that song now?


But seriously, let’s talk about your core.

When you hear “core”, images of sits-ups, planks, or 6-pack abs may come to your mind.

But your core is more than your midsection, and does so much more than just ab work!

Why the Core?

As a trainer and coach, I find that during core-specific exercises, people have great core awareness, but for exercises like squats, single-leg deadlifts, or dumbbell bench presses, core awareness is not as present.

Do you need to invite your core to join all the fitness parties? Short answer: yes.

When you activate your core to support your spine, not only does this reduce the risk of injury to your back, but it assists in movement happening in your legs and/or arms. Bringing your core into the exercise also helps with force transfer— think pushing up from a squat or a pushup— which can make your movement and effort more powerful, with more oomph and strength!

At first, thinking about adding your core into the mix can seem like a lot, and it definitely requires some brain work, but ultimately this will make you stronger and less prone to low backache.

When the people I train get a reminder to activate their core musculature during not-obviously-core exercises, the experience:

  • Feels more balanced
  • Dissipates back pain
  • Feels easier to control
  • Makes more sense
  • Creates a stronger connection to the body
  • Feels stronger

Sounds good, right?

Life Applications

Core activation is relevant in so many places, not just at the gym!

Bracing your core can help you:

  • Get up out of a squishy couch or low chair
  • Carry a heavy bag of groceries (I mean, who isn’t trying to carry all the bags in one trip?)
  • Put a heavy carry-on bag in the overhead bin
  • Wrangle a squirmy child
  • Put a child in or out of a crib or car seat
  • Move furniture

The list goes on and on.

How to activate your core and how much

How much

How much to contract your core is proportional to the demand of the position or the weight you’re moving.

If I am doing a squat with a heavy weight, I need my core to “activate” much more than for a squat without a weight. The higher the load, or the further away from my body (think putting a car seat in the car), the greater the need to contract my core to support my spine and transfer the load from my legs, through my core, to the arms holding that weight.

How to

Okay, but how does one do this? Most of us have been taught to suck in our abs, or draw our belly button toward our spine, which is incomplete. Some of us have been taught to bear down or push out, which is another incorrect interpretation of contracting one’s core.

At Reimagym, we talk about activating our core as a musculature activation that knits or depresses the ribs, bringing the diaphragm over the pelvic floor muscles. Imagine bringing your right lower ribs down towards your left front pocket and your left lower ribs down towards your right front pocket.

Check out the video for a visual.

This abdominal “knitting” creates helpful tension in the core to stabilize the spine, which is what we need to maintain when doing an exercise or carrying all those groceries.

Before we dive into how to create that tension and maintain it throughout challenging movements, let’s start with tapping into aspects of that deeper core that need to be a major player in the stabilization of our spines.

Where to start

Deeper core. Photo from

Breathing. I know, it’s not what you expecting me to say. Or maybe it was?

At the beginning of every training session or fitness class at Reimagym, we ask people to do some simple breathing exercises. This primes the deeper core to get involved and it gives people a chance to make a mind-body connection with muscles that are harder to feel.

A great breathing exercise is the Connection Breath. This can be done lying down, seated, half-kneeling, standing, or actually in any orientation. We suggest to start in a lying down position, and then as your mind-body connection with those deeper core muscles grows, try other positions.

Follow along with this video.

The aim is for you to make a connection with the deep core while at rest. Once you can do that at rest, it will be easier to do while doing things that demand more active core engagement.


We also need to chat about optimal alignment. There is a lot to say about alignment, which we covered in an earlier post, but in short, we think of our core as a kind of soup can— ribs depressed and hips tucked under a little. (Check out this video on IG for more!)

When exercising, we need to maintain the “soup can stack”, with the ribs over the pelvis in a satisfying cylindrical shape. This stack helps create tension and stabilize the spine.

Oh, and since your brain isn’t full enough, make sure you don’t lose that tension on your inhale! The key to doing this is to inhale 360 degrees, meaning simultaneously into your upper back, chest, lower ribs and belly (see video below for demonstration and alternative ways to do this).

During Movements

During movement we want to maintain that soup can throughout. For many of us this means we need to tuck our pelvis under a little and then exhale our ribs into that depression.

Before you begin that squat or pick up that heavy dog food bag or put the baby in the crib, you’ll want to go through a bit of a check list.

  • Is my core stacked in optimal alignment? (Think soup can)
  • Do I need to tuck my pelvis under a little? (Probably yes)
  • Do I need to exhale and knit my ribs? (Probably also yes)
  • How heavy is the thing I am moving? How much do I need to brace to be strong and stay injury-free?

The more you practice this, the more it becomes second nature.


Hopefully by now I have you convinced that your core need a place at the table in many more spaces than just core exercises. To us, all exercises are core exercises. We need to use our breath to recruit our core muscles. We need to hold musculature tension in the core throughout exercise and also inhale and exhale while executing hard movements.

Try this out next time you’re doing a pushup, squat, dumbbell bench press or any other exercise. Try this when you’re making that one trip with all the grocery bags or getting that dog food bag out of the trunk of your car.

Give it a go, and let us know how it’s going.

Try our 14-day trial for $364 $59 — this includes a one-on-one strategy session, a private training with one of our coaches, three small group training sessions, and two group fitness classes. Come see what all the fuss is about!

2 thoughts on “You Can Do It, Put Your Core Into It!”


    I find core control just going up steps to be necessary whether I carry something or not.