When many people say they need a strong “core” they typically think of the six pack muscle, which is the rectus abdominis.
In reality, our core is much more complex than just the six pack muscle.
Some may say the core is “nipples to knees” and I agree, but today I am goin to cover “core” as the area between the rib cage and the pelvis.
- Transverse Abdominis
- this is a deep muscle in the core, this is the muscle that allows you to float on top of the water while swimming. Its located under the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques. It is your built in corset or weight belt if you will. To activate, think about pulling your belly button to your spine and breath all of your air out while pulling “it” in. That’s the transverse abdominis.
An exercise to activate the transverse abdominis
A cue to activate is to breathe out as you bring your belly button to your back. This is one you could practice sitting, lying or standing!
- Internal obliques- this is the second deepest layer of the “core”. This helps aid in keeping adbominal pressure and rotation of the trunk contracting on the same side.
External obliques- This is the next layer of the “core”. It also aids in flexion and twisting of the torso and it contracts on the opposite side when twisting the trunk.
Rectus abdominis- this is the “6 pack muscle”. This is the muscle that gets all of the glory. This muscle supports flexion of the trunk.
A big job of these core muscles are to PREVENT movement and PROTECT the spine. This is why anti-flexion and anti-rotations are great for core stability.
As an athlete or an average joe, it is important to have a strong core. When doing exercises that cause one to stabilize themselves, it can help take some strain off of the affected areas being worked. Think of the core as your “power transfer mechanism.” If the power mechanism is weak, then it puts more stress on the other workers, causing them to become overworked. Lets use an example of a thrower. Someone has to generate force from the ground by the lower body, through the core, to the arm, and into the ball. If the core is weak, the force from the lower body is going to cause more strain to the arm and lose some power. A single arm bench press will show you an example of how the core will aid in a throw for a thrower. It will fire to prevent the trunk from moving and when changing directions it will really fire up. This is a way to promote core strength AND power. This exercise will also activate the glutes by digging the feet into the floor.
This is one of the reasons coaches stress core strength.
There are certain groups of muscles that work in slings. All of the slings have to travel through the core. This is picture shows how these slings work together. Being strong in both slings are important for athletic performance.
For example look at this thrower
If one of the core muscles are weak this can cause excess strain on the other muscles performing the throw. The anterior and posterior oblique slings are being worked in this throw. We will save that for another time. The illiopsoas is an important part of the “core” even though many don’t consider it part of it.
The illiopsoas also helps stabilize the pelvis. It is very important because it attatches our spine to our pelvis. If the illiopsoas muscles are unstable it can contribute to back pain, hip pain, and even breathing issues. In yoga anatomy, this muscle is considered a muscle of emotion. The yogis tie the butterflies and gut instinct to the illiopsoas. To check your psoas stability strength try doing a boat pose. If you shake, this may have indication your stability is weak.
The erector spinae, and multifidi are also very important when it comes to core strength.
The erector spinae are a group of muscles (illiocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis)that run almost parallel to our spinal cord. These muscles help us stay upright and help extension in the lumbar, thoracic, and even cervical areas. They also provide side to side rotation.
These are small yet powerful muscles deep in the spinal column. These muscles work with the transverse abdominis and the pelvic floor muscles to aid in stability before movement of the arms and legs occur. These are very important for spinal health.
See some of these muscles are stabilizing muscles, and some of these muscles are used in dynamic movement. In order for them to work together what do we do?
Work out in the gym (global muscular system)
Do yoga movements with static holds (local muscular system)
I’ve had numerous people say ” When I do yoga at least once a week my pain starts going away.” This is simply due to your body using its stabilizers to aid in movement. That will be a different article. The following exercises will help fire up your core and aid your body in dynamic movement.
Common core muscles
Planks and side planks
deep core and low back muscles:multifidi/erectors
The very bottom of these movements are where the multifidi are most active.
bird dogs and aquamans
Psoas muscle stability
easiest- these are modified versions of the regular exercises
1)Planks and side planks kneeling 3 sets a side 15-60 seconds
2)bird dog barely lifting arm and leg 3 sets 15-30 seconds
3) boat pose with heels touching ground 3 sets 15-30 seconds
hard- these are basic
- planks and side planks 3 x 15-60sec a side
- bird dog knee to elbow and full extension 3×10 hold 2 seconds at end range of motion
- boat pose with heels elevated 3 15-60
hardest- this time we are making movement at the limbs but the core stays stable
- plank lifting each arm and leg in a rotation (arm,arm, leg,leg) 3x 5 rotations clockwise and counterclockwise
- side plank with arm rotations (reach under and lift arm up after)3×15-30
- aquamans on a foam roller or swiss ball 3×15-30 each side
- boat pose straight legged, moving legs up and down similar to a flutter kick 3×5-15 each side