The core is the foundation of our stability and, when properly engaged, allows us to function at our most efficient. What is the core, you ask? It comprises the many muscle groups of the trunk and spine, the four layers of abdominal muscles, and several of the muscles involved with respiration.
One could also make a case for including the gluteal muscles that bridge the spine, pelvis and lower limbs. These deep trunk muscles, when properly activated, should stabilize the trunk to resist forces acting on the lumbar spine.
Think of a sprinter: in order to accelerate rapidly and conserve energy, the trunk must hold the torso still while the pumping action of the arms and legs propel the runner along the track.
When we balance, over one hundred small spinal muscles come into play to keep us oriented in space.
More about the spinal muscles, click here.
Ever tried slacklining? This picture reminds me that as we age, we tend not to take as many risks, thus we get out of practice balancing. Then our core muscles “de-tune” and fall asleep on the job. Let’s wake them up!
The core also stabilizes our pelvis and spine when loaded to prevent injury. It is vital to recruit these muscles properly, so they anticipate movement and protect the spine. Weakness or lack of activation can result in forces traveling through the spine to hips, knees, shoulders and neck leading to injury or needless wear and tear.
For example, as we bend forward to pick up a heavy object, we should draw in the Transversus Abdominus, or innermost abdominal muscles, to support the lower back. This very important muscle acts like a corset, pulling together around the midsection. In my practice, we strengthen this abdominal muscle first, especially if you are deconditioned when starting the program.
Having a strong, active core also allows us to maintain good postural alignment. The Primal Pattern movements all rely on the core.