Pick up any gym or yoga schedule you’ll find a number of “core conditioning” specific classes. The focus on the core engagement and strengthening has been around for awhile. I recently attended one of these core classes and was saddened by the lack of understanding regarding how the body works as a whole.
It is important to have a strong core to do activities of our daily life and maintain suppleness in our spine and largest joints as we age. Much of what is being taught is not improving core strength or function. In fact, it is weakening the core and creating dysfunction in the body.
What you need to know:
The core is comprised of 3 groups of muscles (I haven’t named all the muscle I’ve simply touched on those that are more commonplace and well known):
1. Deep Inner Core – transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor
These muscles work together forming the central canister that connects our pelvis and our ribcage. They provide stability for smooth and fluid movement of the spine, hips, and shoulders. There is an organic grace and ease in movement when these are functioning well. Easy natural breath is essential for these muscles to fire and recruit properly.
2. Global Stabilizers – quadratus lumborum, internal obliques, anterior psoas, hip abductors, hip adductors and hip external rotators
These muscles work together with the hamstrings, quadriceps and muscles of the feet for a balanced weight bearing pelvis in walking, running, and up right activities. The pelvis needs to be balanced to transfer weight from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa. If weight transfer is inadequate compensation will occur.
3. Power Muscles – rectus abdominis, external obliques, erector spinea, hamstrings, quadriceps and lattissimus dorsi
When someone is weak or has a recruitment pattern issue with the deep inner core muscles what tends to happen is an over engagement of the power muscles. For example the lats brace or the external obliques grip during movement. When this happens they aren’t actually using the deeper core muscles. If the lats are being used to stabilize then there is all this inherent strength inside that isn’t being accessed because the power muscle group is being used inappropriately. When the lats are needed for power they are pooped from doing the work of the stabilizers.
How do you stop the power muscles from bracing or gripping? You come back to the previous 5 principles I’ve talked about on my blog and move in such a way that the power muscles don’t grip or brace giving the deep inner core and global stabilizer muscles a chance to organically wake up and fire. This is requires doing less not more and you can’t think your way to improving function it requires that you slow down and notice.
In order to get access to your core musculature you need to be gentle and easy initially. The effectiveness of your core work is highly dependent on your breath. Take a moment to consider the following image:
See how the fibers of the transversus abdominis interweave with the fibers of the diaphragm and the psoas and the quadratus lumborum pass behind the diaphragm and attach to the spinal vertebrea. If you are holding your breathe at all or exhaling too deeply it is going to impact the function and suppleness of these muscles as well as the pelvic floor.
I’ve given you lots to think about and consider. My May newsletter will have a couple simple things you can do to check for pelvic stability and movement to help improve it. In June I’ll offer up some insights on gripping and bracing of the power muscles with ways to quiet them down and cultivate your deep inner core and stabilizers. If you currently aren’t receiving my monthly newsletter send me an email with “newsletter please” in the subject line.
Don’t want to wait for May and June contact me to schedule a one on one session we’ll assess which core muscles are working well, those that are over engaged and start to cultivate that which isn’t currently firing.
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.” Bruce Lee