Book Review: Master Your Core
Updated: Sep 13
Master Your Core:
A Science-Based Guide to Achieve Peak Performance and Resilience to Injury
By Dr. Bohdanna Zazulak
This review is a courtesy provided by TCK Publishing. I've also curated lists of books and other things I like on Amazon so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
Unleash the Power of Your Core
The term core stability has been overhyped and misconstrued, leading people astray with endless crunches and swinging kettlebells, onto a fast track to injury and despair. Instead of following the latest injury-prone fad, you’re about to discover a set of 50 science-based core exercises to tone your body and train your core for functional performance whether you’re training for a world championship or just trying to walk without falling. Dr. Bohdanna Zazulak has devoted her career to figuring out why so many women get injured in sports and everyday life. What she discovered is that properly training your core muscles is the most important thing you can do to improve your health, build strength, and reduce your risk of injuries (for men and women). In this book, Dr. Zazulak explains in simple terms what core stability truly means from a scientific perspective, and how a stable core directly relates to less injuries, better performance, and better physical, mental, and emotional health.
Here’s just a taste of the core empowering methods you'll learn in this book:
The three types of meditation for calming your body and mind so you can experience profound mental clarity and physical relaxation when you need it
Simple breathing exercises that will retrain your inner core muscles and surprisingly increase your strength
A step-by-step process to improve your posture which can instantly lift your mood, boost your confidence, and reduce aches and pains from sitting or standing all day
How to develop a strong foundation of power for any sport you enjoy or would love to try
How to dramatically improve your bone health, longevity, and quality of life
If you’re ready to stop following injury-prone fad workouts so you can master your core with evidence-based exercises that work wonders for your body, this book is for you.
You will love this book if you are interested in:
Holistic health and wellness Injury prevention
I know how important the core is and now I can direct people, especially women, to a book that defines it properly. Dr. Bohdanna Zazulak presents a tome that's part hardcore science text and part guide. The appendix is lengthy with citations of research plus she has done her own.
One setback I'll point out is that the book speaks to cisgender/binaries only. It isn't about gender but about sex characteristics. Wider hips, different angles, prone to injuries.
She leaves the scientific mind when discussing hip width: "The female pelvis widens during reproductive years to accommodate the miracle of giving new life." She should have ended the sentence after reproductive years; not all readers are going to associate childbearing as a miracle in the same way and it feels like the science was derailed for religion in just a few words. The reason that doesn't make sense here is because the other 99% of the book is secular only diverting again to quote research that religious or spiritual people (which is not defined) have less depression.
Zazulak begins each section with a notable quote. I'm sorry to say she includes people who are mired in controversy like Dr. Oz and Osho. The quotes don't really connect to the science so there aren't there to add to the education of the core or musculoskeletal system or even the spirituality portions.
The author also includes an entire body-mind viewpoint about the human "core." There are chapters on meditation and Yoga content presented with a western, non-sacred style. She gives detailed descriptions on various ways to breathe and meditate without using any of Jon Kabat-Zinn's groundbreaking scientific work on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction terminology which is still considered pioneering work in the western world. What Zazulak named "Focused Attention Meditation" is called dharana in Yoga. She also discusses guided imagery, Transcendental Meditation, and Zen meditation and doesn't use the word yoga in those sections though she clearly cites Yoga (along with martial arts, dance, and Pilates) in chapter one. She gives instructions on how to do Yoga's ujjayi breath but never calls it that. If she would, more people might be inclined to understand that they can actually survive a Yoga class and that it's not about whether you can get your foot behind your head.
While I appreciate the lengthy appendix of scientific references, I would have loved it more if they were used as footnotes so that wherever Zazulak wrote "based on new studies" or the like, there would be a quick way to look up what those studies are and where to find them.
"The term 'core stability' has been commercialized and misconstrued, leading unwitting victims astray with endless sit-ups and swinging kettlebells, and onto a fast track to injury and despair. This book highlights how the core is much more than 'six-pack abs,' but rather a powerhouse of physical, emotional, and spiritual flourishing."
Zazulak embraces our differences as individuals and clearly states time and again that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to wellness. She makes it clear that the "core" is not six-pack abdominals that look like they're carved from marble.
"Many people try to keep their tummies flat by sucking in the abdomen to give the illusion of a trim figure, but this habit pulls down the abdominal contents, compresses the organs, and applies downward pressure, creating more tension on the core floor and forcing it to work overtime."
She also explains the word "tone" in a way that should get readers to bypass the biased images we see in marketing and media. Tone is not about being carved and dehydrated so that muscle definition is visible to the naked eye. Tone is about the organ or muscle working effectively and efficiently. The intestines have to be toned; the heart has to be toned.
"Your vagal tone can be measured by your heart rate, breathing rate, and what's called heart rate variability, or the variance in time between beats of your heart."
Early in the book, Zazulak discusses the United States women's soccer champions and how they utilized tracking their menstrual cycles to customize their fitness regiments accordingly. It's important that this is openly discussed! The general public has a fear of discussing menstruation. We not only see the flagrant sexism in sports like the fines issued to the Norwegian women's handball team who refused to wear skimpy bikinis. No one on the European Handball Federation cares if the players need to wear menstrual protection. (ed. note: Honestly, it's an ideal time for companies like ModiBodi to step in and get a contract to make gear for these athletes.) Zazulak bringing this discussion on menstrual cycles to the forefront is magnificent.
There's no discussion about post-menopausal needs, but Zazulak opened the door that had centuries of nails, boards, chains, and padlocks across it.
Her secular approach has broad appeal and is a match for people looking for the benefits of eastern practices who don't want to embrace the spiritual practices.
Besides the mind-core connection, Zazulak also introduces the heart-core connection. This addresses the physical constitutions of how our bodies' soft tissues connect our heart to every other area of the body including our joints and bones. The key component being the diaphragm, our main breathing muscle. Zazulak's emphasis on proper belly breathing is perhaps the strongest argument for reading this book. Belly breathing is far better for the body. It delivers more oxygen which is needed for all the blood, muscles, and the brain.
The vagus nerve is responsible for too much to get into in a book review. I teach entire workshops on yoga and the vagus nerve and barely scratch the surface. Master Your Core includes the health and attention that the vagus nerve deserves. Zazulak explains that chanting and humming (or buzzing like a bee) are ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and bring the body into a state of relaxation which in turn boosts mental functions.
Zazulak makes it clear that the western world, particularly in the United States, puts more emphasis on work than on health.
"Americans already work more hours per year than their peers around the world."
While there are things I would have liked for Dr. Zazulak to cover, what she does cover is critical information that deserves more emphasis over what we are constantly fed by the diet/fitness industries and commercialization of health.
Rating: 4.5 stars
One of the cool things about Master Your Core is that Dr. Zazulak has videos on her website to add to the content within the book.