If you have been working through Part 1 of our Core Series, you should be feeling limber and ready for some core stability work. Before we get into it, I want to quickly go over what the “core” is. The “core” is a term given to a group of muscles. They are the transversus abdominus (TrA), multifidus (MF) and the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles work together to produce maximum stability in the abdominal and lumbar region. The core also co-ordinate the movement of the arms, legs and spine, and are usually the first set of muscles to activate in most movements. They are as important as they sound.
The “core” is a term given to a group of muscles. They are the transversus abdominus (TrA), multifidus (MF) and the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles work together to produce maximum stability in the abdominal and lumbar region.
Engaging the core, is not something we tend to do consciously, which makes it hard to know when we aren’t using it. It is important to understand how to effectively co-contract these muscles, while performing these exercises.
How do I engage my core? Lying on your back, with both knees slightly bent, place two fingers on the front of your hips. Then move your fingers 3cm in towards your belly button, and roughly 3cm down towards your toes. You should be over TrA, when you contract your core correctly, which can be done by trying to gently draw in from your belly button down to the mat/ floor you will feel that muscles under your finger tightening. If you contract too much, these muscles will bulge out, which we don’t want. It is important to learn how to engage your core in various positions as well as during activities, to provide maximum stability for your spine.
Core Activation Exercises
Supine Abdominal Draw In
This exercise is what we have described above. Lie on your back on a mat, with knees bent to 90 degrees. With fingers placed above the core, gently draw in to push you lower back into the mat. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 20 times. This can be done for 3 sets.
Abdominal Draw in with Heel Slide
Same position as part one, this time while engaging your core, slide one heel down the mat, keeping your core activated, then bring the knee back to the bent starting position. Repeat with the other knee, this can be done on each leg 10 times for 3 sets.
While engaging your core, gently bring one knee up to your chest, keeping your hands on your core, and making sure you aren’t over activating. Hold the leg in the air for 5 seconds, repeat 20 times each leg. This can be done for 3 sets.
Same as starting position, this time bring both knees up off the ground, again maintaining your core, with the lower back pressed into the mat. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times for 3 sets.
Lie on your back in starting position. Engage your core, slowly and with control rotate your knees from one side to the other, keeping your hips in contact with the floor at all times. This will engage your obliques (side muscles) this is ok. Remember to keep your core on when bringing the knee back to the center. Hold for 3 seconds, and repeat 10-20 times each side. This can be done for 3 sets.
I hope you have fun giving these a try. They are relatively simple to start with but as you become more aware of your core and control you will be able to attack the more challenging exercises in the upcoming weeks.
If you are having any difficulties with these exercises then make an appointment to see me, I’ll be able to give you one on one feedback and guide you in the right direction. If you are having any pain doing these exercises you should not continue and it would be wise to have an assessment. Have fun, and when you have mastered this series, check out, Part 3 of the Core Series.
Jude Holroyd, Principal Physiotherapist, The Healthy Body Company, Jordan Springs