This week I wanted to talk about core strength and stability. As you will all know by now I am constantly talking about core strength and you won’t make it through a session when I haven’t got you doing a good handful of core exercises. I wanted to explain a little more about the importance and why I am continually ranting “engage your core, brace your abs or draw in the belly button”. I will also finish off with a few simple exercises you can do at home in front of the telly.
The core is made up of three layers, contrary to many who believe it is just the abs and lower back.
The three layers consist of:
- Deep layer. These are the deep core muscles that stabilise the spine. They are made up of lots of tiny muscles that assist in the bending and flexing of the spine and help prevent injury.
- Inner Unit. These muscles are activated prior to the movement of our arms and legs and also act as a cylinder around the spine. They include the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, internal obliques and the transverse abdominas.
- Outer Muscle layer. Muscles included in this layer are your abdominals, external obliques, your lats (latissimus dorsi/ Large muscles in your back), erector spinae (the two muscles that run down either side of your spine and your gluteals (your butt). This layer contains the larger muscles and allows all our extremities and joints to be able to work together, for example lifting the shopping bags out of the car.
So why is it so important to have a strong core??
- 12.3 million work days are lost each year in the UK due to lower back and upper limb problems. This is hugely due to the sedentary lifestyles that so many people live. For example, so many of us spend a good 7-8 hours a day sitting in a chair supporting our backs, which disengages our core muscles. Then maybe after a day at work we will head to the gym and jump on a couple of resistance machines, such as the chest press/ shoulder press. These machines are great for working the chest/shoulder muscles but the machine takes the work load away from the rest of the body and again deactivating the core. (This is why you will never get on a resistance machine in one of my sessions). After the gym we head home and lie down on the sofa. So unless we are consciously thinking about it, we can make it through almost the whole day without really utilising the core muscles.
- The core supports and provides the link between the upper and lower body. So for example if you have a strong core, you will be able to lift more weight, pull harder on the rowing machine, have a better running technique and perform all exercises at a much higher level as your core will absorb the majority of the work load. On the other hand if your core is weak your arms/ legs/ neck etc will have to take on the extra weight and this is when injuries can occur.
- Passive support. Between each vertebrae is a spinal disc and these discs provide shock absorption and support for the spine. The tiny muscles around the spine support and protect the spine from gravity compression and load baring activities. Common back conditions include prolapse disc, facet joint syndrome and bulging disc. All very nasty.
- It reduces the size of your waist! Everyone will love this one. Your core is like a corset and strengthening the three layers of muscles works in the same way as pulling the strings tighter on the corset.
Some exercises you all can be doing at home in front of the TV:
- Do these for 45 seconds, rest for 1 minute and then repeat twice.
- Side Plank
- Sit Ups
- Russian Twist. Tilt back 45 degrees and tap a ball/ weight down on either side of your hips
And then we will all look like this:
Any questions let me know.
See you at your next session