★ Why core strengthening?
Why core strengthening?
Not sure why you should care about core strength? Core support improves your balance and stability. This is especially important for us as we age.
Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly 87% of all fractures in the elderly are due to falls.
- A strong core that is connected to your entire body makes all movement easier and fuller. Whether you are a soccer player, a dancer, a mom, or run your own business—you will be amazed at how much more grace, coordination, and ease you will find within your body… even in your daily tasks.
- Core strengthening will improve your posture and make you look thinner! Who doesn’t want that?
- Your core provides a protective shield for your spinal cord and internal organs. It also keeps your entire system better aligned and functioning properly, improving digestion and enhancing your circulatory system.
- Core training can be done without any equipment, memberships, or huge time commitments. Ten minutes a day will do wonders.
- Transverse Abdominis (TA) – the deepest of your abdominal muscles, lies under your obliques
- External Obliques – located on the side and front of your abdomen, around your waist
- Internal Obliques – lie under your external obliques, and run in the opposite direction
- Rectus Abdominis – a long muscle that extends along the front of your abdomen. This is the ‘six-pack’ part of your abs that becomes visible with reduced body fat
- Iliopsoas – this muscle’s primary role is hip flexion, but because of its deep relationship to both the legs, spine, and diaphragm it can help coordinate the core, especially when complex movement is involved.
- Pelvic floor muscles primarily the levator ani, the coccygeus.
- Multifidus which stabilizes a number of vertebrae in the spine.
- Erector spinae including the longissimus thoracis also stabilize the spine.
- Thoracic diaphragm which helps control breathing.
$30 billion is spent annually on healthcare related to falls. Medicare costs alone for hip fractures as a result of falls is projected to be 240 billion dollars by 2040.
Locating and Strengthening the Transverse Abdominis (TA)
The TA is like your natural girdle. Most muscles have specific roles in terms of joint action. However, the TA’s primary role is spinal stabilization. Because of our society’s over-abundance of “ab” work that focuses on surface muscles only (go away crunches!), most people have a hard time using their TA. Combined with poor posture and tendency to “tuck” the pelvis under when doing ab work, one of the best things you can do in core strengthening training is understand and feel your TA working. Here are two exercises to try:
Deep Breathing TA Experience: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor. Place one hand on your belly. Slide the other hand underneath your lumbar spine. (There should be a natural curve there—do not “flatten your spine” against the floor). For this experience you will be doing some deep breathing. As you breathe in, allow your belly to gently rise as the diaphragm pulls down to bring rich oxygen into your lungs. As you exhale feel the front side of your belly pull inward, creating a soft hollowing sensation, but without letting the pressure on your back hand change. You want to engage the TA without tucking the pelvis or flattening the spine.
Proprioception — from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own,” and perception — is one of the human senses. Rather than sensing external reality, proprioception is the sense of the orientation of one’s limbs in space. This is distinct from the sense of balance, which derives from the fluids in the inner ear. Proprioception is what police officers test when they pull someone over and suspect drunkenness. Without proprioception, we’d need to consciously watch our feet to make sure that we stay upright while walking.
Both stability balls and balance discs help us train our core by creating unstable environments. Our muscles must constantly shift and reorient their relationship to core, and our TA and other deep trunk muscles get a chance to really shine as they commit to keeping us oriented in space.
Stability Ball: There are a lot of things you can do on a stability ball to help improve your core support. Sitting on a ball at the desk, doing your normal “ab” work, or just improvising through large-range movement can help improve your stability.