As a performance guy, I absolutely hate the ‘traction control’ button that they put in a number of vehicles today. If you aren’t aware of what this button does, it operates by detuning the engine and, in some cases, the transmission. By retarding the engine timing to reduce its output and slowing the shift patterns, it effectively improves the traction but really no more than if you purposely stepped on the gas pedal a little softer and with better control. With less power, the detuned powertrain has less chance of losing control on an unstable surface and causing you to crash and injure yourself.
Your body has the exact same mechanisms in place. When you lack stability, your body detunes its reaction to prevent you from injuring yourself. This is the primary reason why training with a Bosu ball or squatting in squishy tennis shoes is counterproductive. With a detuned body, you simply can’t work as hard as you want to or fire and engage your muscles properly. It’s also the reason why my coaching cues help people realize immediate improvements in their lifts when implemented properly.
If you don’t have a properly stabilized core with proper intra-abdominal pressurization (IAP), this down-regulation is in place. Your traction control button is on. Another button is proper joint centration. If your positioning or tight muscles are pulling the joint to one side of the socket, it will down-regulate your central nervous system firing as well. In practice, this looks like a movement pattern-based, warm-up drill. I have several examples on my YouTube channel and further examples will be covered in depth in the Duffin Movement Series (DMS).
If you’re training squats, you would do some movements that require transferring power through the hip joint with a stabilized core. You would do these with proper IAP as a warm up. You would focus on ensuring that the prime movers such as the glutes are firing properly, and you would practice the cues to engage properly such as ‘rooting’ to the floor, as discussed in many of my videos. The movement selection or cueing of the movement will help with achieving proper joint centration and connecting the muscles with the properly pressurized core. Some examples are goblet squats, rear leg elevated split squats, single leg deadlifts and hip side shifts performed before squatting, as shown in one of my videos.
This movement-based approach teaches the body to turn on properly and lets the central nervous system know that it doesn’t need to down-regulate—as long as you keep proper positioning and IAP while moving to the core, heavy lift. It also gets you warmed up and ready to begin training. It’s an efficient training approach because it takes 5–10 minutes, and when you’re finished, you’re already in the process of being warmed up physically and mentally.