These exercises are designed to strengthen your inner core unit; your inner core unit consists of 4 main muscles.
When we’re talking about your core, we’re not talking about your 6 pack, these are your superficial ab muscles, what we are referring to are these muscles listed above, your inner core unit.
These muscles are responsible for helping you maintain neutral spine, good posture, control your bladder, your breathing and much more.
When these muscles are weak or dysfunctional (not activating properly) then you may experience issues like back pain, Light Bladder leakage (LBL) or other pelvic floor issues.
So it’s very important that you understand the function of these muscles and how to keep them strong and operating effectively.
The first step is understanding what neutral spine is. As being able to control your pelvis and get into a neutral position (especially during exercises) is important to ensure you’re not unevenly loading your spine and potentially injuring yourself.
Another thing to note is the old saying of ‘switching your core on’ is inaccurate, there’s no such thing as a switch to ‘activate and use’ your core muscles. However when you have a neutral spine position during an exercise, your core muscles are being most utilized.
Here are 3 drills I recommend to help teach you pelvic control and neutral spine leading to far better pelvic strength.
1. Pelvic Control Drill
Great one to do with a helper, coach or friend.
Start by kneeling down and resting your weight evenly on your hands and knees.
Ensure you have your shoulders directly over your hands.
Ensuring you are not moving from your lower back, you want to practice tilting and tucking your pelvis. (Note: this is a very subtle movement)
Focusing on drawing belly button in throughout. As you breath in, focus on tucking your pelvis up toward your ribs, breathe out, focus on tilting your pelvis, to cause a slight lumber lordosis.
Ensure that the work is coming from your deep core muscles as opposed to just arching and flexing your lower back.
To find Neutral spine, fully tilt, then fully tuck neutral is the middle point between these 2.
Complete 20 x Tilt and tuck slowly.
In front of a mirror is best so you can ensure you’re not using your back.
The next step to this drill is to begin slowly swaying forward over your hands, aiming to stay in a neutral position, this will meaning constant correction causing you to activate those deeper muscles and get a better understanding of pelvic control.
Do the same thing as you move back to starting position. Complete x 5 -10 of these.
2. Legs In-Out – whilst maintaining neutral spine
Once you have mastered the drill above, you can move onto this drill, keep in mind you need to build up to this.
Lying on your back, with knees bent at 90 degrees, find neutral spine. (Remember this is the middle point between full extension and full flexion (flattening and arching).
Once you feel you have this. Focusing on drawing your bellybutton in, keeping it in begin breathing in and out deeply.
Step 1 is to extend one leg out straight, maintaining neutral spine, once you feel like you no longer have control or you arch your back, bring your leg back in and switch sides.
Complete 2- 3 sets of 10 each side.
The last step is to take both legs out. What you will find is your back will want to arch much sooner than when you did single leg, so take note of this and bring your legs back in when you no longer have neutral spine.
Complete 2 -3 sets of 10-15 reps.
You can start doing these exercises at the beginning of your workouts a few times each week, this will ensure your brain is switched on to being in a neutral position for the rest of your workout. Or alternatively you can do these on their own from home every couple of days.
The key is to build up slowly, if you feel any discomfort other than that of the muscles working, such as a burning feeling or sharp pain consult your physio or post partum specialist.
Have a great one!