Why is Core Strength So Important?
The importance of the core to health has many aspects. It is the foundation of good posture, and the beginning of every movement. It supports the lower spine, connects the upper and lower body, helps in breathing, digestion and even in sexual performance.
The primary muscles are the Transverse Abdominus, Diaphragm, Pelvic Floor muscles and Multifidus.
When these muscles are trained correctly and strengthened they support the body, like a strong foundation, and reduce your risk of injury while making your movements stronger and more fluid.
Cross-section of Core Muscles
The practice of Pilates will improve all the aspects of the core musculature, giving you the benefits that I have mentioned. But there is even more!
During this type of training you develop a greater awareness of this area and control over it. This allows you to recognize when it is not working as effectively as it should and when to make it work harder for those bigger efforts.
While working on these deep muscles, you are also working the superficial muscles, rectus abdominus, obliques, internal and external, erector spinae. So not only will you be efficient and strong on the inside but also toned and slim on the outside.
What’s more you will have flat, trim abs. You’ve seen those bodybuilders in the gym, with big strong abs, that bulge out like a beer belly. Not for you! the Transverse Abdominus is the body’s natural corset, drawing the superficial abs in and giving you that flat stomach.
With these muscles working correctly you will reap the benefits, including good digestion. And good digestion benefits your skin, hair, muscles, bones, mental ability, mood and overall health. You can’t build muscle or burn fat without efficient digestion and poor digestion has been shown to cause all manner of ailments from constipation to cancer.
All this from just a well trained core, and we haven’t even gotten to posture yet! There’s a ways to go but always remember, “Even the longest journey, begins with a single step”.
By now you are well on your way and will soon be reaping all of these benefits.
So what is the Core?
Basically the core is the musculature that supports and connects your lower body to your upper body. It is made up of three major muscles/ muscle groups; the Pelvic floor muscles; the Transverse Abdominus; the Diaphragm.
Pelvic Floor Muscles:
Most people rarely think about their pelvic floor. The most common time we use it is if one needs to use the toilet but there are none available or you may also notice it when you cough or sneeze, due to the sudden tensing of the muscle. Otherwise it goes unnoticed.
But this group of muscles is extremely important; it holds in and supports your abdominal organs; stabilizes the hips, with the rest of the core, and helps you with balance; stops you being incontinent.
Transverse Abdominus: The body’s natural corset
Whether you know it or not we have all used our T.A. at one time or another. One of the main uses of the T.A. is to draw in the bellybutton and hence the abdomen. So if you’ve ever pulled in your tummy as you headed out to the poolside, hello meet your transverse abdominus.
The T.A. connects to the left of the spine, runs around the abdomen connecting to the ribs and the hips, until it reaches the right side, encasing the internal organs. The other abdominal muscles, those that make up your six-pack, or give you a drawn in waist are layered over the T.A.
So even if you burn off that fat, and tone up those abs you wont get a tight, flat stomach unless you engage and work the T.A. If you don’t believe me just look at the bodybuilders in your gym, they have six-packs but they bulge like beer-bellies. You want Brad or Angelina like abs you have to use the core.
While giving you that flat tummy your T.A. is also doing something a lot more beneficial for your physical wellbeing. Provided you allow it to do so the T.A. will hold your lower spine in a neutral position. This is the safest position for your spine to rest in and will help to maintain good posture throughout the rest of the body.
The diaphragm works with the muscles of the ribs to expand and contract the rib-cage allowing you to breathe, so obviously it is a rather important muscle. Due to this, unlike the other muscles, we rarely take direct control over the diaphragm, but we can still strengthen it with the rest of the core.
The way we control our diaphragm is usually through breathing; rate, rhythm and depth, you don’t focus on the diaphragm but the inhale and exhale.
The stronger we make the diaphragm, however, the deeper, slower and more paced our breathing will be.
This is why the core is the foundation of a healthy body.
Stand or sit in good posture. Take a deep breath in, filling your lungs. As you breathe out, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine and squeeze your abdominal muscles, pushing the air out. Relax as you breathe in again and repeat 9 times.
Begin gently and build up slowly.
In good posture, gently activate the core, or draw the bellybutton in lightly so that you know it is drawn in but can still move freely. Maintain this light tension as you breath in and out for 10 breaths.
Standing or lying in good posture, gently draw in your bellybutton, activating your core. Now tilt your pelvis up at the front gently, drawing the bellybutton in slightly as you do and breathing out. Breathe in as you relax back to the starting position, but keep the bellybutton drawn in slightly at all times.