What is the Core?

“I have a strong core! Look at my 6 pack!”

 

Actually…you may have a diastasis

Ok, seriously though, let’s start from the beginning. Understand the make-up of our bodies before we move it.
The True Core: @Belliesinc refer to the muscles of the core as the CORE 4.Image result for core muscles

The true core is more than the 6-pack abs and low back.

The true inner core is made up 4 muscles that, when functioning optimally, support our spine and pelvis: Transverse Abdominus (TvA, the deepest layer of the ab group), the Diaphragm (breathing muscle), the Pelvic Floor (support your organs), and the Multifidus (movement of the spine). The core 4 make up some of the local stabilizer muscles that attach directly to vertebrae

. These work to limit excessive compression, shear, and rotational forces between spinal segments.
This group of muscles is designed to work together in anticipation of our every move, so they prepare us for the work BEFORE we even move. In a dysfunctional core, these muscles are not working together so they need to be RE-TRAINED using restorative exercises that involve breath and proper activation. Participating in core TRAINING when you have a dysfunctional core will cause more harm than good. But Once the core 4 has been retrained and is functioning optimally again, progressive layers of core training can begin and you can slowly work your way back to doing what you love (be it running, heavy lifting, etc)

Muscles of global stabilization system attach from pelvis to the spine. These transfer loads between upper extremity and lower extremity, provide stability between pelvis and spine, and provide stabilization the core during functional movements.

These include the QL, psoas major, obliques, rectus abdominis (6 pack), gluteus medius, and adductor complex.

Training the movement system muscles (includes lats, hamstrings, quads) before training muscles of global and local stabilization systems would not be beneficial and can lead to injury. It would be like building a house with no foundation.

U heard me say it before: skip the 100 crunches! If you want a flat tummy, you must re-train the deeper muscles of the core BEFORE training, improve your breathing and posture, and eat better!


Additional details on the Core 4

The diaphragm: The diaphragm is a sheet of skeletal muscle that separates the heart, lungs and ribs (the thoracic cavity) from the abdominal cavity.  It is involved in breathing as it contracts and relaxes with each inhale and exhale.  As you inhale the diaphragm concentrically contracts, and lowers, pulling air in. As you exhale, the diaphragm eccentrically contract (lengthen) as it rises back to its resting state, emptying air. In a well functioning core, the pelvic floor will contract and lengthen along with the diaphragm during each inhalation and exhalation.

 

The Pelvic Floor: The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue within the pelvis.  The muscles of the pelvic floor connect to the pubic bone in front, to the tailbone in the back and to the sitz bones.  These muscles provide support and stability to our spine and pelvis, help keep the pelvic organs in place and help us maintain our continence (the ability to control our pee).  They need endurance to work together for long periods of time such as maintaining our continence throughout the day and they need to be able to contract quickly and strongly at various times during the day such as when we laugh, cough, sneeze, pick up our baby etc.  

In a properly functioning pelvic floor, the contraction is automatic and happens before we actually move, cough, sneeze etc. When it is dysfunctional, we may lose the ability to contract fully, or timing is an issue, or we may contract TOO MUCH.

Common types of pelvic floor dysfunction are urinary incontinence, organ prolapse, pelvic pain and dyspareunia (painful intercourse) to name a few and can sometimes result from under-activation or over-activation.  Other factors can also contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction such as age, weight, obesity, previous low back pain, pregnancy, childbirth, diastasis recti, high intensity and repetitive abdominal training and previous injuries or surgery.  

 

 

The TvA: The deepest abdominal muscle and wraps around you like a corset inserting on either side of your spine. This muscle is used all day every day when you breathe, cough, sneeze, lift (at least it should be).  It is a highly functional muscle that can become stretched and weak due to inactivity, pregnancy, posture changes, being overweight and even from doing relentless forward flexion abdominal exercises.  The transverse, like the muscles of the pelvic floor, needs to maintain a certain amount of tone throughout the day to help support the spine, and the internal organs.  Too much tone can create downward pressure on the pelvic floor and too little tone can mean a lack of support for the spine and abdominal contents. (taken directly from @belliesinc because they explain it so well)

The TvA connects into the linea alba which is the band of connective tissue that holds the 2 straps of the rectus abdominis in alignment at the midline (that sexy straight line down the middle of the 6 pack) and it is this tissue that can become stretched and weak in a pregnant woman, in an overweight individual or in a person performing repetitive flexion type abdominal exercises like the crunch.  Too much stretching of this muscle can also lead to dysfunction.

“Belly to spine!” I have been guilty of this cue myself and the aim is to work the TvA,  but some research shows that many actually use the internal oblique rather than the TvA when they draw their belly button to their spine.  In an optimally functioning core, the transverse will co-contract with the pelvic floor and one cue I learned from @belliesinc is “close the book.” So pretending that there is an open book in front of your pelvis and you are trying to close that book. When I tried to close the book myself, my mind was blown. And it was amazing how subtle the “Core engagement” is, opposed to tightening and sucking in, and creating a rock hard mid section.

The Multifidus: The “Christmas Tree” Muscle

They are a group of spinal muscles that are located on both sides of your spine, and run from your neck to tailbone. They function to support and protect your spine. A weakness in this muscle group contributes to chronic, dull, low back pain. And vice versa, pain can also inhibit these muscles from proper function, creating weakness. The multifidi are often overlooked in strengthening programs which can result in the muscles needing to work extra hard to avoid back injury and to compensate for weak abdominals.


sources:

www.Belliesinc.com – Core Confidence Specialist Course

www.thehealthygamer.com

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