I bet when you have been exercising someone has said let’s do some “core work” but are you sure what that even means? When we think of the core many people think of the abs, they may even consider the back but is the “core” muscle structure really just those 2 areas? The “core” muscles are attributed with stabilization of the spine, helping us to maintain balance and stability, transferring force from the lower body to the upper body (& vice versa) as well as helping to give you a flat stomach.
Learning to work your core effectively is essential if you have back issues, want to run faster, get better at your sport of choice or just simply move more easily.
Considering all the roles the core has should it be really over-simplified in this way?? Here is what you need to consider when working your core……
Your “core” has 2 layers – the inner and outer muscles.
It is the inner muscles that most people consider when working the core – these are the muscles of the pelvic floor (MoPF), the diaphragm, multifidus and transversus abdominis (TVA). Imagine they muscles as a tube with the pelvic floor at bottom and diaphragm as a lid on the top. Your spine would be the “I” beam at the back.
Activating the inner core muscles isn’t about big movements it’s more to do with awareness, engagement and breath. The diaphragm is activated on anticipation of movement, exhalation causes the activation of the MoPF, TVA and multifidus. Exercises support activation of the inner core include Pelvic clock, hip tilts, flat back (straight spine) bridge and neutral squats.
The outer layer consists of 4 subsystems –
Longitudinal system – from the soles of the feet to the head
Lateral system – Lower back into the inner thighs
Anterior Oblique slings – chest to hip
Posterior Oblique slings – shoulder blade to gluteus (bum)
Imaging the oblique slings as crosses – they travel across the body right to left & left to right.
Working these muscle groups is an important addition to any workout as this offer us lumbopelvic stability. Lumbopelvic stability is seen during bracing exercises such as planks but having that stability is also essential during movement as this helps the pelvic & back to stabilize against external forces in movements such as walking & running. The movement to active these larger muscle groups include supine marching, diagonal press (one of my personal favourites) and prone swimming.
Integrating exercises that activate the inner and outer unit of the core and that offer lumbopelvic stability into your exercise progress is essential for optimal performance & movement. Pilates incorporates all these benefits in your class. If you haven’t tried pilates yet maybe you should think about getting it into your life.