Mastering your CORE
So what is our core and why would you want to master it?
You may well have heard about the benefits of core stability exercises without really understanding what it involves. Firstly, let’s explain what our ‘core’ is and what it actually does.
We have three main layers that make up our abdominals, your external obliques make up the outermost layer. Underneath that you then have your rectus abdominus (the sacred six pack!) that runs vertically between your ribs and your pelvis and helps you do the sit up movement, connecting to this you have your internal obliques which run diagonally and produce twisting movements. Then you have your deepest layer, your ‘core’ muscle. This muscle is actually called your transverse abdominus (trans abs) and it is called this because it runs horizontally around the body and functions like your bodies natural corset by tightening, when it contracts, to support the spine and pelvis.
This support mechanism is the key, as by providing a solid platform for the rest of the body to hinge off this in turn allows the spine and other joints to work as efficiently as possible. This allows optimal function when completing daily activities or specific actions in sport.
For this reason we also know that if peoples ‘core’ muscles are not firing as well as they should the person is more susceptible to picking up an injury in their spine as well as joints elsewhere in the body. The reason for this is their other joints are required to compensate for this weakness and in doing so take on forces they were not designed for often resulting in injury.
So in a nutshell... we implement a core stability programme that incorporates exercises that are designed to activate and strengthen the transverse abdominus. In doing so we protect the spine, as well as removing imbalances within the body all of which may otherwise predispose you to injury.
So why would we need to activate them?
In most people due to poor postural habits, prolonged sitting and previous injuries the trans abs are underactive and weakened. Instead we rely on the larger muscles of the trunk to provide support. They weren’t designed for this, these muscles are designed to create movement, not add static support and so in asking them to do so they tire easily and their true function in the form of movement suffers. Hence we need to focus on activating our trans abs and in doing so allow these larger muscles to relax and focus on their job. People think its okay I do planks etc, the commonly termed core exercises, however the problem is without being able to activate these muscles correctly, our body will resort to its old habits and compensate, in doing so all the exercises you think are targeting you trans abs are in fact not. The result is you aren’t getting any where near the benefit you should be!
The hardest part is learning how to activate them, there are lots of cues people use when trying to teach people how to do this; imagine you are trying to stop yourself passing urine is a very common one used to describe how you can activate them because we know the pelvic floor muscles work very much together with transverse abdominus to give you overall postural support. The catch is how do you know you are doing it correctly?
We are now using diagnostic ultrasound! Our Physiotherapist and APPI trained Pilates instructor Jodie is incorporating this assessment method with her patients. This enables you to see the muscles visibly contracting on the screen and when you get it right you can see it. We have found this tool invaluable in getting people to truly understand how to activate their trans abs, in doing so we have enhanced their results, and it’s not just us. This article by the Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, have proven that this method is significantly more effective than instruction on teaching activation! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12951667
Once you are able to activate them then you can start to target them correctly using strengthening exercises. The stronger they get the more stable you become, laying foundation for the rest of your body to function off!
To get started just call or email the clinic to book an Initial Assessment with Jodie, and you can be on your way to a better core!
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