You have probably heard a thousand times to “engage your core” but do you really know what that means? Read below to find out more…
What is the Core?
The core is a group of muscles that help stabilise and support the body in almost every movement. Stability, in this sense, is considered the ability to control the movement and position of the body. Often people associate the core with their abdominal muscles, but it is so much more than that. According to the sports medicine book “The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function”, the core is a muscular box containing 29 pairs of muscles. However, the more major muscles within this group are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominus, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominus, and erector spinae.
What does it do?
The primary role of the core is to act as a stabiliser and force transfer centre. They also play a huge role in completing everyday activities, from getting up from bed in the morning, walking down the street, and standing in the kitchen to make your dinner! However most importantly, they literally enable you to stay standing upright. This is because the core muscles are the base of support for the entire body. They completely surround and support the spine and pelvis and connect the upper body to the lower body; transferring forces from one area to another. Good core stability can also help to reduce or prevent low back pain – a condition far too many people live with on a day-to-day basis.
How can I improve my core stability?
There are five different elements of core stability that must be considered when targeting the core muscles during exercise. These are strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function. It is important to not only improve core stability with targeted exercise, but to think about its engagement with everything that you do. This can be done as simply as gently drawing your belly button in towards your spine and holding the position whilst maintaining normal breathing.
Listed below are three exercises designed to improve core stability that you can try at home:
- Lie on your front with your toes on the floor.
- Place your forearms on the floor and push up, lifting your torso and legs.
- Hold a straight line from your shoulders to your feet for 30 seconds, preventing the back from sagging or your bottom lifting.
- Keep your buttocks squeezed and your hips level.
Relax and Repeat 2x.
There are various regressions and progressions for this exercise; including holding the plank position on knees instead of toes or holding the plank position on hands instead of elbows.
2. Side Plank
- Lie on your side, propping yourself up on your elbow.
- Keep your legs straight and stacked on top of one another.
- Use your elbow and feet to push the body off the floor and maintain a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, preventing the hips from sagging.
Relax and Repeat 2x each side.
There are various regressions and progressions for this exercise; including holding the side plank on knees instead of toes or adding an elbow to knee crunch and leg extension.
3. Dead Bugs
- Lie on your back and bring your legs up to table-top position with your hips and knees at 90 degrees.
- Raise your arms straight up vertically over your head.
- Keeping your back flat, lower the opposite arm and leg away from one another towards the floor.
- Do not allow anything else to move and make sure your back remains flat on the floor.
- Return to the start position and repeat with the other pair.
Continue alternating repetitions for 30 seconds. Relax and Repeat 2x.
There are various regressions and progressions for this exercise; including maintaining table-top position whilst only doing overhead arm exercises or adding a fitball.
Before attempting any of these exercises at home, book an assessment with one of our physios today, to ensure they are safe and relevant for you.