Engage your core, belly button towards your spine, zip up your core… you many have heard people mention these phrases on numerous occasions but what do they actually mean and what’s the big deal?!
Here’s my quick and very topline 101 on core and why it’s so important
What is your core?
Your core muscles are made up of several different muscles in your abdominals and back. These include the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominus, the erector spinae, (sacrospinalis), the longissimus thoracis and the diaphragm.
Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius.
In a simple form think of your core muscles as a highly supportive band or belt that runs around your trunk keeping everything in alignment.
Why is it so important to have a strong core?
Your body is highly reliant on the core muscles for functional movements and maintaining a good posture. If you look at people who slouch or slump they are unlikely to have strong core muscles.
A strong core helps to prevent back pain which is often a sign of weak abdominal muscles and for you sporty people good core strength can dramatically improve sports performance or help you to lift heavier loads.
What is the Transverse Abdominus (TA)?
This hugely important muscle is the deepest of all the abdominal muscles and is thought to be a significant component of the core. It provides thoracic and pelvic stability… and without a stable spine that is aided by this TA muscle functional movements can not be performed properly.
Therefore it is extremely important to activate and use your TA when carrying out any form of exercise from weight training to running to cycling. It will help you to exercise safely and maintain a correct posture.
I always say to my clients that they should think of their TA as being at the heart of them, their engine. In other words once they have activated this deep muscle they should then try to use it to give them power and strength.
How do I find my TA muscle?
The TA is notoriously a tricky to locate and recruit but once you have found it and practised using it you will find that it works a bit like a light switch flicking on and off when needed.
To help activate this muscle imagine you are trying to zip up a pair of really tight jeans! You can improve the contraction further by also working the muscles deep within your pelvis, the ones that keep you from urinating.
How do I train my core muscles?
Here is a program of my top 6 core strengthening exercises. You don’t need any equipment, just an exercise mat, grassy area or a carpeted floor at home.
Work through the program from exercise 1 – 6 and then repeat 2/3 times.
Don’t be deceived, it’s harder than you think!
* For beginners I suggest just doing the stage 1 of each exercise (for the ones that have stages)