Consider the Core Part IMarch 13, 2015 • By Lauren Calabra
Core strength has been a big buzz word in the health, wellness, and fitness community lately.
There is a reason ‘core strength’ is discussed so much in medical research, fitness articles, and blogs like this one. It is a very important subsystem of the body!
However, it is key to learn a few things about the core before jumping into the latest Facebook post on “How to get a 6-Pack in 6 Days”.
The following two part series will break down a few aspects about ‘core strength’ in order to prepare yourself for additional readings, advice, or physical evaluations with a licensed practitioner.
What Makes Up the Core?
The core that the general public tends to refer to is only the rectus abdominis muscle, aka 4, 6, or 8 pack. This is the muscle that extends along the front of the body from the bottom of the sternum to the top of the pubic symphysis, or pelvis.
In reality, the core should include this muscle and MANY others.
Here is a short list of muscles you can look up to get an idea of the extensive network of the core:
FRONT: Rectus Abdominis
SIDE: External Oblique, Internal Oblique, Transversus Abdominis
BACK: Psoas, Longissimus, Multifidii, Iliocostalis
BOTTOM: Pelvic Floor (We will detail this some other time!)
Again, this list is very short in comparison to the reality of how many muscle are activated when recruiting our core. Just keep in mind that the core refers to muscles surrounding the midsection of our body all the way around and extending from the bottom of the sternum and ribs to the pelvis.
Why Is Core Strength Important?
Core strength is valuable for a number of structural and functional purposes. It serves as a structural protector to the internal organ systems. Functionally, the job description of the core continues to grow. Two functions of the core that relate well to daily movement are lumbopelvic stability and diaphragm activation.
- Lumbopelvic Stability: When the core is strong, the lumbar spine and pelvis become more stable. This aids in protecting the lumbar discs and limiting unnecessary pelvic rotation. When the lumbopelvic complex is absorbing forces well there is less demand on the low back in order to lift boxes for moving, pick- up your grandchildren, practice yoga poses, or even sneeze.
- Diaphragm Activation: Core strength requires the recruitment of the diaphragm. Diaphragm activation is important to define healthy breathing patterns and “turn on” the nervous system responsible for resting states.
When the diaphragm is correctly activated it controls our breathing rates and oxygen input. Proper diaphragm use contributes to better breathing performance when exercising, doing yard work, or even giving a speech. Improved breathing patterns have contributed to decreased symptoms of asthma and allergies as well!
The diaphragm is directly related to the parasympathetic nervous system. The stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, aka the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, is very important in the American culture. Typically people present over-stressed with symptoms of fatigue, muscle cramps, increased heart rates, and high blood pressure. Taking slow deep breaths, using the diaphragm and core correctly, truly does encourage a controlled meditative state for efficient recovery and healing.
If you do decide to jump into some core work, please consider the posture of the lumbar spine and breathing patterns!
Hopefully these few thoughts will start to open doors for deeper conversation regarding the complexity of ‘core strength’.
Still to come: Consider the Core Part II: “How do you know if your core is strong enough?” and “How can the core be activated efficiently?”.