Working the ‘core’ isn’t just about getting a flat stomach!
Do you know what I mean when I talk about the ‘core’? Your abs right? Well yes, they are included, but it’s so much more than just those 6-pack superficial muscles. Your core refers in the main to your midsection, including pelvic floor, erector spinae (spinal muscles), obliques (side ab muscles) and deep muscles such as the transverse abdominus. These are supported by minor muscle groups such as the glutes and the shoulder girdle. I won’t go in to all the muscles as I don’t want to bore you with technical names, but suffice it to say, it’s important for just about every full body move you make and determines your posture.
I would say that 90% of my clients want to reduce their waist circumference and really only think about doing exercises that specifically work the abs. Spot reduction isn’t possible, so bashing out a load of crunches isn’t going to get you anywhere fast and it’s certainly not going to work those deeper muscles and the core as a whole. What you need to do it work the core through various different strength exercises, in conjunction with cardio activity, and that’s when you’ll see the difference.
So yes we talk about the core when trying to get rid of the fat round our middles, but why work on core ‘stability’?
As alluded to above, it will improve your posture and give you a strong torso
There will be reduced risk of injury, in particular with the lower back
You’ll become more efficient with moves such as lifting, pushing and pulling due to the transference of force and recruiting the right muscles
Stability comes when tension is balanced between all muscles relevant to a specific activity, so it’s all about synergy and getting our muscles to work together rather than in isolation.
What we need to do to improve the stability is to ensure that every exercise we do, we’re doing with optimal alignment and that our breathing is integrated with any movement. A squat probably isn’t an exercise you think about when you’re wanting to work the core, but see the difference by doing the movement with and without conscious thought:
Bend knees into your squat, but when coming up breathe out, pull up your pelvic floor and squeeze through your feet and glutes. You should feel your core engage with that breath and pelvic floor action.
Now, do the move by just bending your knees and coming up without thinking about anything (no breath etc).
Can you see the difference? Consciously thinking about integrating the muscles you’re working and breathing at the same time makes for a totally difference experience and over time you will see big improvements in the effectiveness of your workouts. Try this with the other exercises you do.
I teach all my clients how to mindfully do their exercises, engaging the core where needed. Admittedly a large percentage of my clients are pre and post natal so incorporating the pelvic floor is incredibly important (I do tend to bang on about it!), but it’s something we should all be thinking about whatever stage of life we’re at and whatever gender we are. It’s a muscle that needs working like any other and as you should’ve felt in the above exercise, it’s a really important part of the equation when working our core.
Want to learn more then come and check out one of my classes or speak to me about personal training.
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