You’ve heard about strengthening your core and doing core exercises…but do you really know what you are strengthening and why it is important?
The core is made of a few different layers of muscle and fascia that have a primary goal of stabilizing the spine and assisting with urinary incontinence and pelvic pain. The layers include the rectus abdominis (those 6-pack muscles we all want), obliques, erector spinae, multifidi, and transversus abdominus. The part of the core that is commonly forgotten is the pelvic floor. Studies have shown that the primary way to kick in your transversus abdominus and stabilize your low back is to do a pelvic floor contraction (the infamous kegel exercise.)
“Set Your Core” Before You Perform Core Exercises
Setting your core is a two step process. First, you do a kegel exercise. For women, this is the vaginal contraction (imagine pulling a tampon up and in.) For men, think about lifting the testicles up. Okay…good times, but moving on.
Second, you pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine, like putting on tight pants (suck it in!) This is a sub-maximal contraction, about 25% effort, so you should be able to breathe normally. You need to also concentrate on the kegel the entire time or you will lose that contraction instantly. Once you set your core, you can perform one of our favorite core exercises, such as the plank, the modified CrossFit sit-up, or supine bridging.
See our videos below, with our adorable helpers, on how to do these exercises to minimize risk for injury.
The strength and stability of these muscles is important because when they contract, they also pull the fascia tight (kind of like thin leather). This is called the thoracolumbar fascia, which gives the lower back stability. You will have your own internal brace to help you safely do lifting and sports activities with decreased risk for injury.
The Modified CrossFit Sit-Up
This month, “love yourself to the core” by making sure you are engaging and working out your core muscles regularly!