What is the core? Where is the core? What does the core do?

What is the Core

The core, the abdominal core, is comprised of these 4 muscles:

transverse abdominals

pelvic floor muscles

deep multifidus

diaphragm

Where is the core?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does the core do?

These muscle groups work together. When we inhale, our diaphragm lowers and contracts, our pelvic floor muscles essentially lower as well to lengthen and our transverse abs and multifidi muscles lengthen. When we exhale, our diaphragm releases back upwards, our pelvic floor muscles contract and move up and our transverse abs and  multifidi muscles contract inwards giving us stability around our spine and pelvis.

Training the Core

3 components are necessary for optimal function of our abdominal core!

Isolation, Integrate, Function

Isolation includes breathing, pelvic floor muscle awareness, transverse ab activation

We now know that our breathing goes hand in hand with the rest of the abdominal core muscles. This makes it even more important that we are breathing well. Chest breathing will not allow our diaphragm to reach its full excursion therefore, nor will our pelvic floor muscles feel a full release or lengthened state. All of our muscle groups need to feel length in order to find full strength.

When a group of our core muscles lives inside us, we often don’t give it as much thought or attention as it may need. This makes it difficult to know when a problem is arising and doesn’t allow us to do anything about it before it becomes even more problematic. It is important to ‘feel’ our pelvic floor muscles lifting and lowering, contracting and releasing. Sitting on a ball or straddling the corner of a chair acts as some feedback to help us feel our pelvic floor muscles. Take a breath in, remembering that our pelvic floor muscles should feel like they are slightly descending, or reaching closer to what we are sitting on. Can you feel that? Now, exhale and try and pull up with your pelvic floor muscles. Can you feel this movement slightly coming up and away from what you are sitting on? This is one way to start becoming aware of ‘how’ your pelvic floor muscles move.

The transverse ab, part of our core, is talked about a lot in gyms and fitness settings but it is actually left out a lot. We need to make sure that this muscle is actually functioning since it helps with our abdominal stability so much. What commonly happens is that the internal obliques take over. Have a look at the clip that shows this happening on real time ultrasound. We need to use cues like:

with your hand placed below your belly button on your belly, gently and slowly draw your lower belly away from your hand

imagine creating space between your two front hip bones

Integration involves combining muscle groups

We know that these muscle groups do not work alone. So, once we have been able to feel and access them, it is time to become more realistic and blend them. In supine, sitting or leaning with your back and buttocks against the wall, knees softly bent and away from the wall:

  • inhale and allow your ribs to reach out to the sides of the room
  • exhale and the entire time you are blowing air out, your lower belly moves in and you lift up with your pelvic floor
  • 10 breaths

Function involves adding the above into your ADL’s

The faster you are able to blend these techniques into what you are doing throughout your day or in the gym, the easier it will be! For example:

  • As you bend down to pick up baby, inhale on the way down and exhale and engage on the way up
  • As you do your tricep kickback in the gym, inhale to bend the elbow, exhale and engage to straighten your elbow

You don’t have to do this all day long, but keep it in mind to do it for a few of your gym exercises or for the first 5 minutes of your walk, etc.