We’ve all heard it somewhere before – perhaps at the gym, or from your health practitioner – that it’s important to have a ‘strong core’. But what exactly does this mean, and how does having a strong core support us in our day-to-day activities?
To get a good understanding, let’s first take a closer look at the main muscles that make up the core. These include:
- Rectus abdominis (often referred to as your ‘abs’)
- External obliques
- Internal obliques
- Transverse abdominis
- Pelvic floor
The first group of core muscles listed above are more superficial (e.g. your visible ‘abs’) and are commonly the muscles that people try to train at the gym with sit ups, bicycle crunches etc. While these muscles are still important for many movements, such as bending and twisting through the trunk, we first need to build a strong and stable base to move from. This is where our deep core muscles – the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor – come in to play.
The transverse abdominis is the deepest of the core muscles. It wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis, like a corset, and it’s main function is to stabilise the pelvis and lower back before the arms and/or legs move. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that lines the base of the pelvis, working in cooperation with the transverse abdominis and deep spinal muscles to ensure the low back, pelvic, bladder and reproductive organs are all stabilised properly.
These two muscles work together reciprocally, constantly working to support the spine and pelvis as we move throughout our day – whether it be bending over to scoop up the kids, kicking a football, or even maintaining good posture when seated at a desk all day. If these deep muscles are weak it can create various problems throughout the body, such as low back pain, pelvic instability, incontinence, and tight overworked surrounding muscles.
So, how can you develop a strong, stable core? It all starts with good awareness and activation of these deep muscles. Give the following exercises a go:
Activating the pelvic floor:
Activating the transverse abdominis:
Once you get the hang of activating these deep core muscles, you can start to incorporate this into your regular exercise routine to increase balance, strength and control of the rest of the body. If you’re keen to know more, check in with your practitioner, or come along to one of our Clinical Pilates classes – one of the best ways to build core strength and help you MOVE THROUGH LIFE!