The term ‘core’ is used regularly and particularly the term ‘switch on your core’.
This language is a little confusing and today we hope to enlightened you on how you can actually use your inner core muscles efficiently.
So what is your Inner Core?
Your inner core unit is made up of the following main muscles:
Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic organs are the bladder and bowel in men, and bladder, bowel and uterus in women. The diagram below shows the pelvic organs and pelvic floor muscles in women (right) and men (left).
The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a muscular trampoline from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). These muscles are normally firm and thick
The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in the process of inspiration, or inhalation. It is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that is inserted into the lower ribs. Lying at the base of the thorax (chest), it separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity. It is a thin, skeletal muscle that can contract voluntarily. Located beneath it are the abdominal muscles.
But it also acts as like a ‘Lid’ for all the other inner core muscles we are talking about here and helps maintain strength and stability.
The multifidus muscle is one of the smallest yet most “powerful” muscle that gives support to the spine. Most people have the misconception that small is insignificant but it is not the case when it comes to this particular muscle.
Multifidus muscle is a series of muscles that are attached to the spinal column. These series of muscles are further divided into two groups which include the superficial muscle group and the deep muscle group.
The multifidus muscles help to take pressure off the vertebral discs so that our body weight can be well distributed along the spine. Additionally, the superficial muscle group keeps our spine straight while the deep muscle group contributes significantly to the stability of our spine.
This is not the 6 pack muscles, they are the most superficial abdominal muscles.
Transverse abdominis (TrA) forms the deepest layer of the abdominal musculature with the obliques (internal and external) forming the middle layer and rectus abdominis the most superficial. TrA wraps around the abdomen horizontally, predominantly below navel level.
The role of Transverse abdominis is to control the mobility of the lumbar spinal segments.
Now it’s not exactly easy or really possible just to switch all these muscles on and off like a light switch. However there is a way to know when they are working at their most optimal.
When you are in Neutral Spine or your Spine is in normal alignment, in particular when your lumber spine (lower back) is in neutral alignment.
You’re inner core muscles are working at their best.
Here is an example of how to find your approximate neutral spine.
Picture 1 is a neutral position (approx.)
Picture 2 is Flexion if the spine also known as a posterior pelvic tilt
Picture 3 is Extension of the lumbar spine (and what many people consider as ‘Straight or good positioning’) however doing an exercise such as a squat in this position is just as risky as doing a squat in flexion.
Our aim should be to perform exercises in the neutral position as possible.
This will ensure there is an even distribution of load through your vertebrae and reduce risk of injury.
To improve your pelvic control, core strength and for many, your bladder control. An ability to control your pelvis and maintain neutral spine during exercises and strengthening these muscles is the first step.