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How Well Do You Know Your Core?

We are always being told that we need to work on our core, that core strength is essential but what exactly does it mean?

Our core is a set of muscles that wrap around the trunk to support it. The core muscles help to keep us mobile, fit and support all the movements that we make with our arms and legs, they protect us as we lift things, twist, push and pull, and they support us as we sit and stand.

Generally when we talk of the core we think of the stomach muscles, but the core is much more than that. Really the muscles are like a box, with the diaphragm at the top, the rectus abdominus muscles (our six pack abs) form the front of the box, at the bottom is the pelvic floor, at the back are the muscles that run along either side of the spine, and then around the sides are the oblique muscles and then deep in the box is the transverse abdominus muscles which act as a pair of magic pants wrapping around each side of the body meeting at the front. There are other muscles that get included as sub core muscles but the main one I like to think of as being important are our glute muscles - our butt muscles.

So when we are told to strengthen our core what does it mean? Often that phrase is used to refer to the deep muscles the transverse abdominus, but as all the muscles work together to support us, we really need to keep the whole trunk area fit and healthy. However the key muscles to think about are the back muscles along the spine, the obliques, the glutes and most importantly the transverse abdominus and pelvic floor. So how do we strengthen the core - there are lots of exercises and exercise routines out there that claim to strengthen the core but, here are some simple ways to help keep your core fit and healthy.

To fire up the transverse abdominus (TA)

To help find the TA cough - you should feel the deep lower part of the belly tighten up - that's the bit we are trying to engage.

To engage and activate the core, think of pulling in the naval/belly button to your spine and up into the back of the rib cage - it should feel like you are squeezing into a tight pair of trousers, you can then work on breathing out pulling in and releasing the pull as you breathe in.

To fire up the pelvic floor (PF)

To find the PF imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from using the loo, and you will feel a tightening sensation towards the lower part of the pelvis, in between the top of the legs. Then to activate/fire up the PF you can repeatedly create the sensation as you breathe out releasing as you breathe in. For gentlemen I have been reliably informed that thinking nuts to guts will also fire up the pelvic floor.

Activating the PF and the TA are simple exercises that you can do anywhere anytime, so you can slot them in several times a day, aiming for 10 breaths activating and releasing at a time!

Here are some suggestions for 4 basic exercises that you can do 2 - 3 times a week to really build up and keep the whole trunk area healthy. If you aren't used to strength exercising, aim for 5 repetitions of each move and then build to 3 sets of 5 reps. Then you can add on respitions as it starts to feel easier. Remember it doesn't have to be a big move, only take the body as far as it wants to go.


Exercise 1 - Squats - works the whole core

Stand with the feet underneath the hips, bend the knees pushing them over the toes and push the bottom out behind you and lift the arms to reach towards the ceiling, then return to standing. That's one rep.

(Try to breathe out on the way down and breathe in on the way up)

Exercise 2 - chest lift - works the back muscles

Lie face down on the floor, arms by your side so your finger tips touch your thighs. Lift the chest up from the floor as you slide your fingers down your legs and then lower back down.

(Try to breathe in on the way up and breathe out on the way down)

Exercise 3 - Roll Ups - works the abdominal muscles and TA

Sitting on the floor - squeeze the belly in and roll over the sit bones as you curve down towards the floor, and then return to sitting, don't worry about coming all the way down part way works just as well.

(Try to breathe in on the way down and breathe out on the way up)

Exercise 4 - Roll ups with a twist - work the oblique muscles and TA

Lie on the floor knees bent, left hand behind the head reach with the right hand to the outside of the left knee curling up from the floor as far as you can go, then roll back down - do 5 on one side and then swop. (Try to breathe in on the way down and breathe out on the way up) Bonus Exercise - Bridge Staying lying on the floor with knees bent roll the hips off the floor and lift up so you rest on your shoulders then roll back down (Try to breath in on the way up and breathe out on the way down) For more information and to see my top tips on exercises to strengthen all the core click on the video link below

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1 Comment

Kathleen .M
Kathleen .M
Jan 07, 2022

I was using my core whilst reading this very interesting post and waiting for scones to come out of the oven. Ha.

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