These days, books, DVD’s, gyms and the web all promote Core strengthening programs.”Engage your Core” is a common instruction given with the demonstration of an exercise. But how do you know if your Core is actually engaging? Take our quiz and find out.
1. Does your belly pooch out while you are doing crunches?
If a bulge resembling a small pup tent seems to form on your abdomen with each rep, then not only is your Core not strengthening but its off practicing Kumbaya. The TA (a.k.a. Transversus Abdominis) is your deepest abdominal muscle and one of your four Core muscles. The job of the TA is to stabilize the spine and pelvis, cinch the waist, and flatten the abdomen. If the TA is active in a crunch, the abdomen would flatten or descend slightly before the crunch begins. As you complete the crunch with the TA engaged, the abdomen will remain taut with some skin folds, but no more campsite on your belly. (* However, Crunches are not recommended. See “Why Crunches Don’t Work” )
2. Do you leak while exercising?
You wish it was just sweat, but deep in your heart you’re bummed because you know what it really is. Everyone leaks after a kid or two, right?? Wrong! The pelvic floor (your Kegel-ing muscle) is another of your four Core muscles. The pelvic floor stabilizes the pelvis, controls leaks, and helps the rest of the Core work at its best. A weak pelvic floor is a sign of a sleepy Core. Closing and lifting your pelvic floor on exhale before a rep will make your sweat-only wishes come true.
3. Are you holding your breath to complete even light resistance activities (pulling on your spandex shorts, bending over to tie your runners, lifting your gym bag into your locker, etc.)?
Breath-holding is a built in mechanism that allows us to lift big things, like refrigerators and VW bugs. If you find yourself holding your breath to get out of the car in the gym parking lot or to open the gym door, your diaphragm (another of the four Core muscles) has forgotten that it has another job beyond the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The diaphragm plays a huge role in stabilizing the spine and activating both the TA and the pelvic floor. Exhaling with exertions, even small ones, is a good start. Adding a two-count exhale before you begin a rep will link the work of the diaphragm with the TA and Pelvic floor.
4. Does your back feel fragile, like it might snap?
If a back spasm is always lurking, waiting for a misstep, a slipped grip, or a funny twist, your Core is out to lunch. Research has shown that at the onset of low back pain, the TA stops working properly. In addition, the fourth Core muscle called the Multifidus tends to go MIA in the presence of spine pain or injury. The job of the Multifidus is to stabilize each segment of the spine. Finding and strengthening this powerful muscle will help put those lurking spine demons to rest.
5. Are you frustrated by your lack of results at the gym?
If, despite your best efforts and hard work, you have lost all your baby weight but your belly still hangs over the top of your jeans, your cute bum has disappeared, and your bra size (not cup size, unfortunately) has gone up since kids, then a sleepy Core may be the culprit. The job of all the Core muscles is to activate together before any movements begin in order to stabilize our center (the spine and pelvis). This creates a central anchor, so exercising muscles have something sturdy to pull against. A sturdy center promotes correct form so that exercising muscles maximally strengthen and tone. Your muscles will perform at their best, and you will look your best.
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, than a Core makeover may be in order.
A decade of new research has helped us gain new understanding of the critical role that the Core plays in the issues that plague mommies and their pursuit of a return to fitness. Interior fitness is dedicated to helping moms regain their sturdy center again through very specific Core restoration programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.