When we hear the word ‘core’ we think about abs and a six pack achieved through 100’s of crunches and sit ups. While the abdominals are an important part of the core, it is actually made up of so much more!
Why is Core Strength Important?
The core includes several muscles of the midsection and can be further divided into an ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ division.
Think of your ‘inner’ core like a can of soft drink. The cylindrical component consists of the transverse abdominis at the front and sides, the multifidi at the back, sealed at the bottom by the pelvic floor and at the top by the diaphragm. These muscles work together to provide spinal stabilisation.
The ‘outer core’ allows your spine to move in three dimensions. The rectus abdominis allow movement forwards and the erector spinae allow backwards bending (flexion and extension), the quadratus lumborum bends the spine side to side (lateral flexion) and the internal and external obliques allow for twisting to the left and right (rotation).
Together, your core is responsible for both the stability and mobility of the spine.
Core Muscle Function
Your core is at the centre of everything you do! Whether you’re an athlete or just need to bend over and tie your shoes, the mobility and stability of your core is very important.
Benefits to having a strong core:
- Prevent back pain
- Increase flexibility
- Proper posture
- Improve balance
- Prevent incontinence
A strong and stable core is also important to preventing pain elsewhere in the body, as the spine provides the base from which all movement is initiated. Too much or not enough movement of the spine can lead to pain in the joints or muscles of the head, shoulder, hips or knees!
The six pack muscles you see popping out on the front of magazines are the rectus abdominis. This muscle is superficial both functionally and physiologically. This means that low body fat, good genetics and some abdominal training may get these popping, however, this is not a reflection of core strength. If we think about the ‘inner’ core, this is what provides stability to the spine and where a lot of core strength comes from.
Often when your Physio is talking about core strength they are actually talking about the ability to keep the spine stable while doing something with our arms and legs.
Strengthen your Core
Has your qualified Physiotherapist ever told you to focus on your breathing while doing an exercise? Well this is because the diaphragm plays an important role in regulating intra abdominal pressure which in turn leads to the ability to brace the core.
The diaphragm contraction on the inhale creates intra-abdominal pressure which triggers the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominis to activate. This interplay of pressure and muscle activation supports the lumber spine (lower back) like a brace keeping it neutral which is essential for lifting anything; weights, children or groceries.
The next step is to learn to activate the inner core to create stability. Exercises such as front, side and reverse planks. You’r qualified Physiotherapist can ensure you are using the correct technique to switch on your core. Did you know you should be getting the shakes at 10 seconds? No more 5 minute planks!
Next step is to be able to maintain core stability whilst resisting external or internal forces. Exercises such as; bird dog, palloff press and landmine rotations.
The final stage is to progress to functional exercise and maintaining core strength and stability during movement.
How Physiotherapy can Help!
A physiotherapist can assist in identifying core weakness and explain how this may be contributing to your pain or injuries. You’r qualified Physiotherapist will then give you a structured rehab program to build up core strength and stability. Book Now
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