In terms of our anatomy the core relates to the muscles found around your pelvis, hips, and abdomen that you use in most body movements.
Most of us don’t use these muscles in a functional way on a day to day basis. We often spend a large proportion of the day time sitting down in cars, at desks or on the sofa, so our stabilisation muscles are getting progressively weaker.
Core stability training can benefit us with:
- Improved posture
- Reduced injuries
- More agility
- Better balance and co-ordination
- Improved power and speed
Did you know? Injuries sustained from falls because of poor balance are the leading cause of deaths in people aged 70+, yet this figure can be drastically reduced with the appropriate dynamic conditioning and stabilisation activities.
Core stability training – where to start?
The biggest mistake people make when told to contract the abdominals is to just breathe in and hold the breath.
Strengthening the transverse abdominus will help develop your overall core and abdominal muscles. The TA is also known as the corset muscle which acts like a girdle and helps create forced expiration when we laugh and pulls the tummy in.
Here is a simple exercise to practice initiating the transverse contraction. Keep breathing throughout the whole exercise!
Press your fingertips lightly just above your hips then begin by drawing your navel (bellybutton) inwards, towards the spine. A useful analogy is to imagine you are trying to do up a tight pair of jeans and you have to pull in your abdominals to zip up the jeans.
As you do this, engage the pelvic floor muscles by pulling in and tightening. Imagine you are squeezing to stop yourself from urinating. This contraction should then be held whilst maintaining breathing throughout.
Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat 10-15 times. You may want to build the repetition up gradually.
It can take time to learn this process so keep practicing until it becomes second nature.
Other exercise activities that are great for core:
Pilates – created by Joe Pilates in the 1930s, originally to help dancers and gymnasts reduce injuries
T’ai Chi – great for balance and mobility
Exercises using unstable surfaces using stability balls, wobble boards, stability discs and BOSUTM
Or you could try bus surfing – next time you’re on a bus or tube, stand up without hanging onto anything whilst bracing your abdominal stabilisation muscles. If you are good at it nobody will notice, if you’re a bit wobbly you’ll look like a surfer. If you lose balance, you may make new friends!