We all know that the ‘core’ is important to the way our bodies function and stabilise itself. But did you know your core is much more than just your abs or ‘6 pack muscles’? So, what muscles make up your core and what are the best exercises to strengthen them? Let’s explore this a little more...
The core is a collective term that refers to the group of muscles at the centre of our bodies musculo-skeletal system. These muscles bring stability to the spine/spinal column and support the movement of the limbs (both upper and lower). The core includes many of the muscles that attach to the pelvis and spine including the quads, hamstrings, obliques, rectus abdominus (front) and erector spinae muscles (back).
The core is a cylinder.
When you look at the muscles above and how they attach and where, the core looks a bit like a cylinder and not just the beach muscles that many people attribute it to; it has a bottom (the pelvic floor muscles), a top (the diaphragm) and sides (the abdominals, obliques and erector muscles). One of the most important muscles of our cylinders is the diaphragm or the ‘LID’ of our cylinder. The core creates stability when it generates intra-abdominal pressure by ‘drawing in’ all these muscles from different directions of the cylinder at the same time.
Now this is all very interesting in a technical setting but how does it help you, the people reading this blog. Well, it means you now know where to start when it comes to strengthening your core and reducing your risk of things such as low back pain which research shows people with lower back pain (LBP) to people without, the LBP group had less diaphragm contribution when they inhaled and exhaled vs. those with higher diaphramic ability thus showing decreased pain or pain awareness.
There is a number of ways to train your core or even just to get it more active before beginning and exercise program. Sit-ups and crunches are a way to show off those beach muscles but are by no means the best way to create a strong stable baseline. Now that you understand a bit more about the core functions and muscles, you can see how bracing comes into play (when walking, running, hiking, bike riding etc). Since our centre of gravity resides within or around our pelvis, core muscles become the fundamentals for creating stability of all our lower limb movements. Movements that you might like to try…
Let’s START WITH:
· Diaphragmatic breathing
· Transverse abdominus activation
· Pelvic tilts
· Isometric exercises (no movement) e.g. dead bugs
NEXT BUILD STRENGTH ANDCONTROL:
· Animal crawls· Bird-dog (4-point alternative arm leg extension)
· Forearm plank and side plank
Finally MOVE ONTO:
· Compound movements e.g. lunges or lunges with single arm press
· Dynamic movements e.g. cable rotations
· Unilateral exercises e.g. single arm cable or dumbbell press
At the end of the day each body requires a slightly different approach to which core muscles may need to be stimulated to get the most out of itself and there are many exercises that can be prescribed to assist. The exercises range from basic body-weight movements, sometimes really simple patterns to increase body awareness, proprioception and neuromuscular connection; it doesn’t always need to feel like it’s working for it to be WORKING!
If you aren’t sure where to start, it’s best to ask for help. Safety is always the best policy. Come in and see us at at Ex Phys Australia or call us on 1300 869 169 for some advice around how your core can help you.
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