Updated: Jan 21
We are all very aware that a strong core is beneficial to our health, keeping us upright and moving well. Your core is critical to any movement your body makes, arms, legs and even turning your head demands action from your core. A strong core can assist in reducing lower back pain, improving balance and is incredibly important for correct posture.
But do you really understand how the core functions and how to ensure you you are looking after your core?
Many people believe strong abs equal a strong core, but this isn’t so.
Abs are superficial muscles, your core are the deep muscles; the pelvic floor, multifidus, (at your back), transverse abdominis (deep to your obliques and rectus abdominis) and the diaphragm make up your core. If you aren’t aware of how to engage your core you may be using the wrong muscles and causing weakness in your core.
If you over engage your obliques, what most people think of as their abs you risk underusing your core muscles which you may not realise until your core requires quite a bit of work to rebuild.
The good news is you don’t have to kill yourself with muscle burning ab exercises to start engaging these muscles. You need to get connected with your core. The bad news is they’re not easy to find if you haven’t been using them (which is most people).
So, how do you find them then? Firstly stop gripping, or ‘holding your stomach in’, if you’re gripping you’re using your superficial muscles and your core will disengage. When your core disengages or ‘turns off’ you will be using the superficial muscles for your twisting and turning movements from other muscles and this will cause you aches and pains if continued.
By over-activating your stomach when planking, lifting weights or simply walking you’re preventing the initiation of your core. It’s critical that you start to understand your core and become connected to it.
When walking or running think about where your movement is coming from. Are you swinging your shoulders and hips? Can you reduce this movement and focus on walking from the hip and taking your foot through the full range of motion? (We’ll have a blog soon on the 6 phases of movement in the foot).
If you are unsure how engaged your core is, it’s advisable to work with a professional to assess and get some guidance on the best exercises for you. Your pilates or yoga instructor, massage therapist or other body worker can assist you to regain your core focus.
They will assess exactly what works for you in order to activate the target muscles.
Everyone is different so it’s not a one size fits all approach - nothing in the body ever is.
If you are a desk worker it's essential that you spend time focusing on your core and ensure you are engaging it to support your posture. Holding yourself with your core rather than your superficial muscles will assist in preventing lower back ache from sitting for long days. Using a stand up desk and taking regular walks will support this as well.
Train your core for a healthy life!