When I say core, do you automatically thinks abdominals?
Well youâ€™re not wrong if you thought that, but it is not just your most prominent abdominal muscles like your rectus abdominus also known as the â€œsix packâ€ so your front abs. The other most popular area of your abdominals is your obliques also known as your side abs. When we are looking at strengthening the core it is the inner abdominal muscle called your Transverse abdominis which connects to your pubis and wraps around your back to your sacrum, which we really want to concentrate on. You can find if your Transverse abdominis (TA) is working if you put your hands together in a triangle shape, with your fingers pointing down to your pubis, your thumbs resting in a straight line across your waist and your palms on your hip bones. When you are in this position gently roll your pelvis back and forth inhaling and exhaling as you do so, and you should be able to feel your TA switching on. When you are doing this make sure youâ€™re not bending your spine or using your bum muscles it should be a deep abdominal connection.
Maintaining a strong core is important for you balance and posture, so keeping you upright walking, standing, keeping your shoulders back and keeping you from falling over if you hit a bump in the road.Â The core will also act as stabiliser to your back. If you have a strong core you will be less likely to suffer from back pain, it supports the spine and keeps it from going out of its range of motion, it keeps everything together.
With the help of my beautiful dog Kahli who decided to plonk herself next to me, I have provided some basic level exercises to begin strengthening your core and stabilizing your spine, below.
This is a great exercise to find that TA connection through your core, it is great for torso stabilisation and pelvic stability.
To do this you should lie on your back, with your hands by your side and knees up with feet on the floor. Imprint the spine tucking the pelvis in drawing the belly to the spine. Roll your shoulders back releasing tension in that area and your neck, maintaining a connection from your sternum to pubis.
Exhale to lift your pelvis up to the ceiling keeping your shoulders on the ground.
Inhale up the top and keep a soft neck.
Exhale to roll the spine back down to neutral, rolling vertebrae by vertebrae.
Watch your knees are not swaying and you have your abs, hamstrings and bum muscles activated when lifting.
Spine twist supine:
This exercise allows you to get a nice stretch through your side and activate your obliques (side abs) whilst maintaining stabilisation through your pelvis.
It is performed with your knees bent and arms stretched out into a â€˜Tâ€™ position with your palms down and in line with your shoulders. Exhale to draw in the abdominals and rotate from the waist to drop the knees to one side, careful not to lift the shoulders up off the ground. Inhale to pull the legs back from the waist activating the core.
You can progress this by extending the legs out with knees locked.
A great exercise to really activate the core and work your whole body.
You are beginning lying down with your legs outstretched, and your arms stretched resting behind the head. Imprint the spine (finding your natural curve, drawing the belly to spine). Inhale to come up, reach the arms forward and come up to a chest lift. You will then scoop in the belly and curve the spine. Exhale to come up pushing down on the hamstring keeping the legs on the ground. Maintain your ‘C’ curve when sitting inhale and hold then roll back down vertebrae by vertebrae Â with your hands and head hitting the ground at the same time.
You can perform this 3-6 times.
If you are finding it difficult to roll up from a supine (lying down) position you can begin this exercise sitting first and performing a ‘roll down’ instead. Rolling the spine down to the point just before your abdominals release, hold at this point and roll back up. Maintaing the same position as the roll up mentioned above
Â Leg circles: Activating the core, abductor and adductor muscles of the leg.
Begin with one leg bent or outstretched on the mat depending on your capabilities. The other leg is stretched straight up to the ceiling with the knee locked. Back is flat with a neutral spine and belly drawn in with pelvis tucked, hands are by your side.
Inhale to sweep the extended leg across the body and back into centre making a circle, alternate your breath on each side. Back and hips should stay stable and there should be no rocking of the pelvis. The smaller the circles the easier and more stable this exercise will be. Alternate legs and circle rotations changing from clockwise to anti clockwise.
Repeat 6-10 times in each direction with each leg.
Single leg stretch:
This is the first exercise of the 5 ab series, and can be progressed by changing the breath pattern, increasing the tempo and adding hand variations.
Begin with legs in a 90/90 position (knees bent and above the hips, feet outstretched in the air in line with knees).
You are in a chest lift position and your eye gaze is to straight ahead-follow the line of your legs.
Keeping Â your left knee bent place your left hand on the left knee, extend your right leg and place your right hand on the right shin. Exhale and change legs (right hand right knee, left hand left shin) and continue to alternate.
These are a basic level exercise to get you started and build your connection and attention on your core muscles.
Good luck and please listen to your body and itâ€™s capabilities. If you have any medical conditions or restrictions please check with your doctor before performing any of these exercises.