The importance of core strength goes way beyond a thin waistline. One of the main questions I get is, "how do I get a flat tummy?" A flat tummy happens in the kitchen, 100%. No matter how many crunches you do, you will not have a flat belly unless you change your eating habits. This article will discuss that the core has many benefits besides a six-pack. A strong core foundation is essential for injury prevention and pain management. The benefits include:
Improves your posture
Decreases back pain
Decreases pelvic floor pain
Improves your balance & Coordination
The core involves multiple layers of muscles. Let's start with the deepest muscle called the transverse abdominis (TA). This muscle runs from your ribs to your pelvis and wraps around from your spine to the front of your abdomen. Its functions range from protecting your internal organs to protecting your spine like a girdle. It also improves our respiration. This muscle is a bit harder to locate. It is easiest to find while lying down with your knees bent. Place your hands above your pelvis and cough. The deep muscle you feel engage is your transverse abdominis. Try to hold this muscle contraction while breathing fully and deeply. Holding your breath is not engaging the TA muscle. Once you find this contraction, hold and slowly lift your left foot a few inches off the floor. Hold for 3 seconds and slowly lower. Switch to the other leg. Alternate left and right leg slowly and controlled. There should be no movement in your pelvis or waist. Be sure to keep the transverse abdominis held during the whole exercise. Your low back will press gently into the floor. Once you lose the TA contraction, stop the exercise, find the contraction again, and continue. Do 2-3 sets of 10.
Another core stabilizing muscle is the multifidi, a small muscle in the back along the spine. How many times in the gym do you hear someone say." Don't forget to strengthen your Multifidi?" Most of you are probably hearing about this muscle for the first time. The Multifidi are small triangle-shaped muscles that run along both sides of your spine. The primary function of these muscles is to improve posture and support the spine. These muscles are typically overpowered by larger muscles when exercising. The bird dog is a great exercise to engage your multifidus and strengthen your entire posterior chain. A bird dog requires you to get on your knees in a tabletop position. Slowly lift your left arm and right leg, and focus on elongating your fingers to your toes. It is essential to control this movement. You should not feel any pressure on your low back. Keep your spine stable and your hips level. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position. Hold for 3 seconds and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. You can alternate sides and complete 2 sets of 10.
The pelvic girdle is a foundational group of core stabilizing muscles. This group of muscles is called the pelvic diaphragm. The pelvic floor may be the last muscle group we discuss, but it is the foundation of the entire core. Weakness in these muscles can cause an array of pelvic floor dysfunctions, including inconvenience, painful intercourse, and pelvic organ prolapse. Strengthening the pelvic floor can not only improve these symptoms, but the contraction sets off a domino effect by turning on your other core muscles. Core strengthening begins in the pelvic floor! The Kegel is a great way to start strengthening the pelvic floor. The Kegel can be done anywhere, standing, sitting, or lying down. It is much easier to start these exercises lying down. To engage your pelvic floor, you will contract the same muscles it takes to stop the flow of urine. Imagine your pelvic floor pulling up and in. Hold this contraction for 3 seconds and release. Aim for 10-20 contractions. Work on engaging just the pelvic girdle, not the glutes or thighs. As always, don't forget to breathe!
Core strength can encompass glutes, rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques. These muscles are typically strong in those who work out regularly. It is the smaller, deeper muscles that are often ignored, overpowered, and underworked. It is these deeper muscles that hold the functional benefits of core strengthening. Your core is made for stability, not mobility. The core muscles play an essential role in protecting your spine, improving your posture, and improving your functional day-to-day activities. Doing crunches, over-extending, and big rotational exercises put your back at risk for injury. When you strengthen your deep core muscles, you will decrease your chronic back pain while improving your overall health and wellness. For more information on appropriate exercises to strengthen your core correctly, check out our Wellness Plus+ On-demand exercise program. We offer evidence-based exercises easily accessible in the comfort of your own home. Check out more at www.wellness360fitness.com.