Of course we know your core isn’t really one muscle but a collection of muscles which impact on virtually all types of movement. A strong core will help your posture and help to protect your lower back. Read on to find out more about which muscles make up our core and how to train them.
What and where is it?
The core has three-dimensional depth and functional movement in all three planes of motion. Many of the muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature people typically train. The deeper muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and many other deeper muscles.
Why is the muscle important?
Your core most often acts as a stabiliser and force transfer centre rather than a prime mover. Your core is often described as the ‘tree trunk’ of your body. It is important to keep your core strong to help posture and prevent injury. Firstly, we want to achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and then dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability. This can include running, performing Olympic lifts, or simply doing the basic household tasks while keeping your back safe. If your core isn’t working properly, other areas that are not meant to handle such stress end up compensating and suffering in the process. This commonly manifests itself in back problems, especially lower back pain.
How to activate the muscle?
To activate your core whilst exercising, or simply sitting and walking, sit or stand up tall with your shoulders rolled back and down and draw your belly button in and up towards your spine, making sure you are still able to breathe and talk comfortably.
How to train the muscle?
There are many exercises which will effectively train your core muscles and help give you a flatter stomach and better posture, as well as protecting your back. With the following exercises, you want to keep a nice stable position and don’t allow the back to curve.
- Rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel.
- Extend your legs out behind you and rest your toes on the floor. Your body should form one straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
- Squeeze your entire core, your glutes, and your quads, and tuck your bottom under a little to keep your lower back straight. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or hiking your bottom up high towards the ceiling.
- Position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands.
Hold this position. Start with 20 seconds and build up to a minute.
Lying Leg Raise
- Lie face up with your legs extended and hands at your sides or tucked underneath your hips for extra support.
- Slowly raise your legs, keeping them together and as straight as possible, until the soles of your shoes are facing the ceiling.
- Then, slowly lower your legs back down. Don’t let your feet touch the floor; instead, keep them hovering a few inches off. That’s 1 rep.
- As you do this move, make sure to keep your lower back flat on the floor. If you’re having a tough time doing that, don’t lower your legs as far. Be wary of any lower back discomfort. Start slow and build up the number of repetitions.
Ab Roll Out
- Hold the Ab Roller with both hands and kneel on the floor.
- Now place the ab roller on the floor in front of you so that you are on all your hands and knees (as in a kneeling push up position). This will be your starting position.
- Slowly roll the ab roller straight forward, stretching your body into a straight position. Tip: Go down as far as you can without touching the floor with your body. Breathe in during this portion of the movement.
- After a pause at the stretched position, start pulling yourself back to the starting position as you breathe out. Tip: Go slowly and keep your abs tight at all times.
How to stretch?
After doing a series of core exercises, it’s important to stretch the muscles out.
- Lie face down flat on floor
- Place hands next to chest with shoulders drawn back and elbows close to body.
- Keep hips dropped and slowly push body up as far as possible keeping shoulders dropped away from ears.
- Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds
Standing side bend
- Begin by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and feet parallel.
- Intertwine your fingers and extend your arms overhead, turning your palms up toward the ceiling. Inhale and contract your abs and glutes.
- Exhale and bend to your right, keeping your hips still throughout the exercise.
- Hold the peak position for 20 to 30 seconds, and then return to starting position.
- Repeat the stretch for the best sides.
Lower Back and Oblique Twist
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat against the floor.
- Extend your arms out to the side in a T position.
- Keep your shoulders against the floor as you move through this stretch, and tighten the core to support the upper spine and shoulders.
- Bring your knees into chest, then drop the knees to one side. If they can touch the ground, that is fine, but be sure to do so without lifting the opposite shoulder from the ground.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds before switching to the other side.
Focus on core exercises and stretches as part of your weekly fitness routine and you will soon start to see results.
If you’re not an Aztec Club member yet, take a look at the range of flexible gym and swim memberships we have to offer at www.tlh.co.uk/aztec-club
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