“The Core” is not just a six pack, it is a group of muscles forming a cylinder of musculature in the abdomen. The goal of these core muscles is to transfer force from the upper to the lower body and vice versa, resist rotation, produce force, and stabilize the trunk over the pelvis during movement. Another function of the core is to control abdominal pressure that increases when breathing. Simply the act of breathing will increase pressure in the abdomen. This increase in intra-abdominal pressure creates a downwards force, that without a strong, functional pelvic floor, can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. The core is made of multiple layers of muscle from deep, stabilizing muscles to more superficial, movement-producing muscles. The role these muscles play in achieving these goals is determined by their position in the body, fibre alignment, and fibre type.
The core consists of the more well-known abdominal muscles such as the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis (the six pack) and internal and external obliques. However, it also includes your diaphragm, pelvic floor, and back muscles including the multifidus. As can be seen in the diagram below, these muscles form a cylinder in your abdomen that work toward achieving the goals previously mentioned.
How to Train the Core:
Exercise for the core should include movement to prevent lumbar extension (anti-extension), rotation of the lumbar spine (anti-rotation), uncontrolled lumbar flexion (anti-lateral flexion). Here are some examples:
- Fit ball rollout
- Pallof press
- Plank shoulder taps
- Renegade rows
- Side plank
- Single arm farmer’s carry
- Wood chop
In saying this, it is important to not be fearful of performing movements that require extension, rotation, and flexion. Your spine and trunk are well-equipped for these movements and they should be able to perform these in a controlled manner. However, a strong core that can resist these movements will result in a strong core that can control these movements when required. Not only this, but it will better adapt to unexpected movements and loads. This will help to improve performance, function, and decrease injury risk.
As always, consult your Accredited Exercise Physiologist prior to employing these exercises into your regime to ensure you are performing the safest, most effective, and appropriate exercise for your body and your goals.