You and your core, its more than just a six pack

When you think of your core what do you think of? Those pictures of models with rock hard abs then you find yourself  thinking you could never achieve that? Do you classify it as the worst part of your body? Where you used to be small, but now not so much? Or do you consider it your foundation, the trunk, the stability portion of your body….?

If you chose the last one then this post isn’t for you because you already know the deets :). However if you didn’t then keep on reading, (and no shame in that! I defintely was there early on in my career, all I wanted was rockhard abs and did 1000 crunches a day…. Seriously ).

Today I want to shift your  mindset so you can understand how truly important our core is to us.. I will try to make it simple and not get too complex with all the big words :).

To start lets talk about what our core really is:

core stability

Bottom line it is our foundation. Its the area that provides stability for our ENTIRE body, its support for when women have a growing baby inside, essentially its where we can and want to be really strong (with that said though when I say strong I do NOT mean tense all the time). It consists of essentially over 20 muscles that help stabilize the lumbo-pelvic- hip complex and provide the FOUNDATION to our spine and help our kinetic chain move properly. One way to think of it is by asking, “ would you build a house without its foundation first?” Didn’t think so!

It is made up of multiple layers starting with-

  • Transverse Abdominis,

    • or TVA - it acts a sheath to our spine and provides a foundation to our spine. This is an area we can work when we are doing stabilization activities, breathing exercises, etc.

  • Diaphragm

    • its is a skeletal muscle that is located at the base of the ribs and top of the abdomen. It is actually a major component of respiration and in creating abdominal pressure, filling our lungs and helping us relax.   It is located under our ribs and works with breathing to engage and strengthen some core muscles as well as our pelvic floor. It also benefits us by helping us relax. It works along with the abdomen and pelvic floor to apply pressure and strengthen the abdomen and supporting muscles of our spine.

  • Internal obliques

    • lie right above the TVA and are part of the abdominal wall. They have two major functions; helping with respiration as they act as the opponent to the diaphragm by compressing the abdomen muscles during exhalation helping reduce air in the chest. As well as helping us bend and rotate working with the external obliques.

  • Multifidi

    • are also part of our abdominal wall or cannister if you will providing support to the back. They help support the joints that support our spinet. They are deep and help reduce pressure on our spine so our weight can be distributed evenly.

  • Spinal erectors

    • help us stand straight and also assist when we bend our spine (think touching our toes). They work along with pelvic muscles, glutes and hamstrings to bring us back to standing.

  • Pelvic Floor

    • It consists of multiple muscles and is essentially the bottom of the cannister working with the diaphragm to help with releasing and controlling pressure within the abdomen. It also provides the base to our spine.

  • Rectus Abdominis

    • This is the one we see and think of with a six pack.  They helps us bend and stand straight (support in the front).

  • External obliques.

    • N outer layer of our core on the sides of the rectus abdominis, but work with our internal obliques to help us bend and rotate.

  • Serratus Anterior

    • Although this may not be thought of as a “core muscle” as it is located under the shoulder blade it is vital in posture which in turn can help support the spine. So training it is important too!

  • Glutes and Hamstrings

    • Just like the serratus these muscles work with the pelvis, spine and hips to help with movement so they need to be strong in order to have a well balanced kinetic chain to help with functional movements and provide spinal stability.

Bottom Line :

As you can see there is alot more to it than just the muscles we see. Due to the importance of all these muscles and their roles in our foundation and movement patterns we can see why if some are weak and some are strong we have problems that run through our kinetic chain (which means our muscles head to toe) out of balance. This can also lead to injuries. We need to train it all in various ways to improve movement patterns and our pain and stiffness.

This is also  why we cannot go by all the workouts, all of the stuff we see online. We need to build our bodies from the inside out if you will and THEN we can do all the cool workouts without having to worry about injury.

How to train it:

Literally start breathing as step one - deep breathing that is. This engages our diaphragm, our ribs, our TVA, internal and external obliques, our multi fidi, and our pelvic floor. Those are some of the most important and neglected muscles. This simple exercise can be done anywhere and anytime of day. Not to mention it helps us relax and get out of that stressed out shallow breathing pattern many of us do day in and day out.

  • To do this you simply need to practice inhaling and filling up your entire core thinking 360 degrees. You should feel your ribs and back expand as well as your belly, then when you exhale you are breathing all that air out fully and feeling the contraction of our core and our pelvis pushing up to engage too. Practice this when your driving. See if you can’t feel your back press into the seat on the inhale then core engage on the exhale. THIS is a SOLID way to provide stability and strength to the spine from the get go. Do it in just 2-3 a minutes a day to see improvement.

Then there are anti rotation exercises - think anything that requires you to keep your pelvis and ribs in line (or hips and shoulders).

  • These require us to keep our core working deep inside to keep spine stabilized and no rotation occurring. So when you stand for example or in a plank you do not allow one hip to rotate in our out or one shoulder they stay in line. This can be challenging at first try a small range of motion and work your way up.

  • Things like bird dogs, planks, dead bugs all help work not only your deep core muscles but also the extensors, glutes, hips, and obliques.

Functional movements -

  • Squat/ Hinge/ Push/ Pull/ Lunge - yes all of these require core strength to be done properly. But this is also why we need to start with just body weight or light weight to work on proper movement before moving into loaded ones. We want that core and spine protected.

So do you feel a little more knowledgeable about why our core is our most important thing to train?? And in ways OTHER than crunches?? I would love to get your feedback. Would you be interested in a core training program?? I would love to hear from you!