5 Things You Need to Know about Your Core

12 April 2018

Let me ask you a question. Why do you do all those sit-ups or crunches? If you’re like 80% of
women, your answer probably has to do with wanting flatter abs, but it turns out that core
exercise benefits far exceed that desired six-pack.

Here are 5 things that you should know about your core and how to exercise it:

1. There’s more to your core than a six-pack.

Think of your core as a box that fits neatly within your abdomen. The walls of that box include muscles: your abdominals are in the front, diaphragm on the top, pelvic floor on the bottom, and glutes and spinal are along the back.

Your abdominals are layers of muscles running in different directions which give you the best stability and mobility. There are four core muscles within the abdominals:

1. Your rectus abdominis is the most superficial layer of muscles that gives people that “washboard” or “six-pack” appearance.

2. Your external obliques run from your lower 8 ribs towards your mid belly and gives you the ability to bend to the side and rotate.

3. The internal obliques lie below the external obliques and run from the lower lateral abdomen up towards the xiphoid process. These also help with side-bending and rotation.

4. Below the internal obliques is the transverse abdominis, which starts from the bottom of the lower ribs, lumbar spine and crest of the pelvis and meets at the entirety of the center of the stomach, from top to bottom.  These muscles are essential for breathing and core stabilization.  These muscles along with the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and spinal muscles work together to give you core strength.

2. Back, hip, or knee pain and pelvic issues, such as incontinence,  are often the result of a weak or ineffective core.

Why? Our core is our central stabilizer and it is the foundation of all our movement. If our core is inefficient or ineffective, all of our other muscles and joints don’t have the opportunity to work like they should. If you experience minor pain today, it’s likely to get worse over time, eventually contributing to limited movement or increased risk of falling and being injured. That’s why it’s so important to work to maintain core strength over your lifetime. In short, strengthening and maintaining our core sets us up for a lifetime of good health and improved function.

3. Less is more when it comes to exercising your core.

One of the most common mistakes we see is women trying to do too much too fast, which ends up compromising quality and form. I tell my patients every day that they need to focus on completing fewer repetitions with good form.

4. It’s time to retire “the crunch.”

There, I said it. I know we all love to hate our crunches, but they’re just not that functional as part of a workout routine. Think of all the movements you do throughout your day - do any of them require you to curl your stomach like that?  If you are going to carve out time during your busy day to exercise, it should be on exercises that are going to benefit you in your daily life. Exercising isn’t just about looking good, but about having the strength and stamina to keep up with your kids, your job, and your hobbies.

Instead of crunches, try these the next time you’re at the gym:
● Prone planks
● Superman
● Russian side twists
● Vertical leg crunches

5. You can exercise your core without moving a muscle.

One of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your core is also the one that is most overlooked and that’s focused breathing. Just relax your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles while you inhale into your stomach, then exhale normally and at the end of your exhale, gently tighten your pelvic floor and transversus abdominis. This simple exercise can be done in any position throughout the day and will help you tone your pelvic floor, which helps with incontinence and pelvic stability.  If you have difficulty tightening abdominal or pelvic floor muscles, a physical therapist may be able help.

At Vitality, we help women be at their best by specializing and treating disorders related to pelvic and back pain, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and restricted movement. Together, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan to help you relieve your aches and pains, and support your body.

Contact us today!