Maintaining core strength is important throughout life, but especially if you suffer from chronic injuries. Back pain, neck pain, knee pain, and poor posture usually indicate weak core muscles. With a little effort you can reverse this. First you have to feel the core and that’s what we’re going to cover here.
Practically everyone reading this over 35 has weak core muscles. We start out life with core strength intact but gravity’s effects, poor posture, and doing exercise or sports incorrectly weaken these muscles.
So what is “the core?” Technically, they’re the collection of bones and muscles running deep to the body between your solar plexus and the bottom of your torso: spine, sacrum (tailbone), and pelvis (hips), and the diaphragm, perineum, pelvic floor muscles, deepest ab muscle transversus abdominis, and the multifidus on both sides of the spine. The core keeps the spine straight and stable.
A strong core is necessary for movement, yes, and for facilitating basic body functions involving breathing, giving birth, going to the bathroom, and being more nimble during sex.
Inner core muscles are supported by several outer muscles. The inner core muscles are DEEP in the body and not easy to isolate. The outer core support group covers the abs, the back, and the butt, which can and should be exercised and stretched. Specifically, rectus abdominus, the internal and external obliques, erector spinae, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi, and gluteus maximus.
WHAT THE CORE FEELS LIKE
Now let’s thread this information together and put it to use. How do we engage the core? A visual would be like a tube of toothpaste: you slowly squeeze the tube from the bottom to push out the toothpaste. If you squeeze too hard, like sucking in your gut, all the toothpaste comes out – what a mess!
Follow the 70% rule, keep breathing, and eventually you’ll be engaging the core all the time without thinking about it.
Next, while the force is minimal it is focal. You have four areas of concentration.
- Pelvic floor: slowly draw the muscles up, like when you stop urinating mid-stream. Relax but don’t let go all the way.
- The perineum: begin feeling this area with very gentle squeezing, so it is feels both relaxed and taut like a trampoline. The tension has both give and spring.
- Transversus abdominis gets activated every time you squeeze your abdomen in and up; again, don’t force it but hold it comfortably and continually.
- The multifidus muscles are engaged when you slightly tuck in you tail bone. Start with one at a time, practicing several times before moving on the next one. As you become accustomed to the sensation of engaging the core you’ll be able to blend all the moves into one.
HOW STRONG IS YOUR CORE?
Test to see if your core is strong and stable: watch this video. You can also practice this core test as a strengthening exercise to maintaining your .
Yoga and qigong are excellent core strengthening exercises. Within Eastern medicine, qigong is a subtle practice that develops core strength from the inside out with its focus on alignment, endurance, and deep breathing.