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Recruiting The Core

Danny Kavadlo L-sit ab training

"Core" is one of the most over-used and misunderstood buzzwords in the fitness industry. It’s been that way for the last twenty-five years. The first time I heard "core" used in a fitness context, it referred to nothing more than the abdominal area. Later on, as the abs-isolation fad fell out of vogue, clever trainers began to mention that for a truly strong core, you must also recruit your lower back muscles, to balance and counter the abs.

This is true, but it’s not the complete picture.

I believe that the core encompasses, not only the abdominal and lower back muscles, but also the upper back, glutes, hip flexors, lats, serratus, even shoulders. In fact, I’d say that it’s comprised of just about everything but the arms, legs and head! The human torso, if you will.
Danny Kavadlo ab training dips

Your core strength plays a role in just about everything you do, in and out of the gym. Having a strong core helps you stand up, move objects and navigate efficiently throughout the world.

When training, I purposely use my core for every exercise I do. Yes, I understand that the larger scale, commercial fitness scene still puts a great emphasis on training specific muscles and muscle groups, or attempting to train only one body part at a time, but I do not subscribe to this notion. After all, the human body is a complex machine consisting of pulleys, structures and communication devices far beyond our wildest comprehension. The machine works best when unified.

Employing your core and maximizing your muscular yields means maintaining full body tension, for the full range of motion, without easing up on the negative phase or resting at the bottom of any particular exercise. Embrace it. Recruit your glutes when your doing pull-ups. Squeeze your lats and grip the ground when doing pushups. Fire up those spine erectors when performing levers. Exploit the magnificent mechanics of the human body. There is no true isolation anyway.
Danny Kavadlo Clutch Lever

Train hard, with deliberation and intensity to get the most from every rep. Remain focused, flexed and present. Good luck!

Danny Kavadlo Diamond-Cut AbsDanny Kavadlo is one of the world’s foremost authorities on calisthenics, nutrition and personal training. He is the author of the Dragon Door titles Diamond-Cut Abs and Everybody Needs Training. Danny is known for his minimalist philosophy, simple approach and motivational talents.
A true in-person experience, Danny is a Master Instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification. He has been featured in the NY Times, TRAIN, Men’s Fitness and is a regular contributor to Learn more about Danny at