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What is the “core”?

Posted in: Pilates | By: Misty Woodden | 8 Comments

What is the core?

 

The core has been called many names, the powerhouse, the cylinder of support, the inner unit, the hydraulic amplifier to name a few.  It is made up of four muscles that form a “box” around your midsection. This ‘box’ is formed by the transverse abdominus in the front, the pelvic floor on the bottom, the mutifidis in the back, and the diaphragm on the top.

 

The transverse abdominus (TA) is probably the most famous of the core muscles, but often is misused and other abdominal muscles compensate for it.  The TA runs horizontally around the abdomen and when contracted increases intra-abdominal pressure.  In a healthy person the TA fires just prior to movement (anticipation) to provide stability.

 

The multifidis runs along either side of the spine.  It provides important proprioceptive (the body’s ability to know where it is at in space) feedback and plays and a crucial role in spine stability.  It is the most important muscular factor in increasing stability of the motion segment, providing greater than 2/3rds of the stiffness increase at the L4-5 level.

 

The Pelvic Floor is on the bottom side of our pelvis.  It looks like a diamond shape between the pubic bone, tailbone and each of the sit bones.  It works closely with the TA, in fact in healthy people the pelvic floor and TA often contract together.  The pelvic floor’s function is the support to our internal organs, sphincteric to control bowel and bladder, and sexual to aid in reproduction as well as support posture.

 

The diaphragm is the reason we are able to breathe.  The breath is closely related to stress and muscle holding/tension.  There is a relationship of movement between the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  When the diaphragm lowers on an inhale the pelvic floor also lowers.

 

The core is not only useful aesthetically (better posture, flatter tummy etc.) but is vital to the wellbeing of the rest of our joints and muscles.  When the core is engaged (working together as a unit) we put less stress onto our joints because our body is aligned and in it’s ideal positioning. The core also helps the bigger muscles in our backs, hips, legs and arms from being over used, resulting in less muscle soreness.  Now who doesn’t want that!

 

While we all want a great core (6 pack abs!!), just doing a bunch of sit ups isn’t necessarily going to do it.  Often we need help to change movement habits and compensations in order to get the muscles working as they should.  If you want to get your core on track, think about setting up an appointment with a Physical Therapist or Pilates instructor to make sure you get the most out of your workouts and to prevent further compensation.  Here’s to happy, healthy cores!

 

8 Replies to "What is the “core”?"

Chris Simmans said:

Great info on what the core is and how to strengthen.

Nick Vander Wal said:

Thank you for this information — it helped me to better understand what the “core” really means!

Will Rhoads said:

I feel like I have a strong core but how can I test that strength? I will share this blog with friends and co workers and get their thoughts

Jon Harrison said:

This is good information. I will pass this on to my coworkers.

Kelsie Petree said:

This is great information and I will pass this along. Its important to know all the ways to help the core other than sit-ups or crunches.

Clay Wright said:

Good info. I know when I started changing workouts that effected my core, I lowered my back pain within a few weeks.

Brian Nix said:

Interesting post. Very informative.

Phillip Williams said:

I know first-hand that situps might be helpful but are not the sole answer to a healthy core. A much more well-rounded approach is key to core fitness. Thanks for the blog!

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