Everyone seems to be trying to work their core these days, but many are unclear as to exactly what their core actually is. Today, I hope to give you more insight into this topic as well as provide you with a visualization of your core and the associated actions of your core muscles.

 

The core is the midsection and the support structure for every step, every reach, and every twist of our body.  It surrounds and supports the spine.  So, for starters, visualize your spine.  Think of it as several building blocks stacked, one on top of the other, with the responsibility of supporting the very heavy and very active shoulders, arms, and head.  With this thought, you can begin to understand the inherent instability of our spine and why back pain is so prevalent.  The major support structures for the spine are the muscles attached to it, otherwise known as the core muscles.   They react like guide wires, pulling, twisting, and stabilizing, allowing only specific segments to move while others hold on tight.

 

These stacked building blocks that make up our spine are also affected by the movement and position of our hips and legs, adjusting to every step, turn, and squat. Given that, it is truly amazing that we remain upright, as our spine works to accommodate all these forces.

 

Our core muscles make this all possible and become even more important as we dance, run, jump, swing a bat, or kick a ball.  Some of the more important muscles of our core that provide this stability are our transversus abdominus muscle, our lower back muscles, our oblique muscles, our quadratus lumborum muscles, our pelvic floor muscles, and our diaphragm.

 

Below is some detail on each of the mentioned muscles, to give you an idea of how they work:

  • Transversus abdominus muscle – tightens around our lower back like a back brace or a corset, cinching up our midsection.
  • Lower back muscles – these muscles include our multifidi muscles and are found in between each spinal segment, controlling small movements and stabilizing each segment; and our erector spinae muscles, which are the bigger layers of muscles that run up and down our spine, move and support bigger segments.
  • Oblique muslces – tighten around our spine in a diagonal pattern.
  • Quadratus lumborum muscles – help to enclose the sides of our abdomen.
  • Pelvic floor muscles – these muscles are actually the floor of our abdomen, working to support our abdominal organs against the force of gravity.
  • Diaphragm – the muscle that forms the top, or the roof of our abdominal core, affecting the intra-abdominal pressure as we breathe, talk and laugh.

 

All of these muscles play an important role in stabilizing our spine, and strengthening them will give you a strong core.  For those of you who have worked through pilates or yoga instruction, all of these terms should be familiar to you.  Most of these classes will instruct you to strengthen and stabilize from the inside out, focusing on the first movement of pelvic floor elevation, all while continuing a steady breathing pattern.  If you have not been able to attend a pilates or yoga class in your area, I strongly recommend you start, or if you prefer to work out in your own home, work out with our Hab It:  Pelvic Floor DVD to direct your focus on the right muscles!

Published by Tasha

8 Comments

  1. Hey Tash! Great blog posts and info! I would be one in the “get rid of my pooch” post…I think I’ll print it out and tape it up around the house!

    Reply
  2. Are there any yoga or pilates moves/exercises those with prolapse should avoid?
    Do you have a preference of yoga or pilates?

    Reply
  3. Cindy, I prefer Yoga over pilates. That being said, I do like pilates, but there are several moves, such as any double leg lowering, that go beyond our transversus abdominus and recruit our rectus abdominus. When we have any type of pelvic floor dysfunction/weakness, you really want to limit your rectus activity. Yoga, on the other hand, works to stretch your connective tissue and the breathing techniques can really help you to get tuned in to your own body rhythm. I think I teach and work with a combination of pilates and yoga strengthening and lengthening techniques.

    -Tasha

    Reply
  4. Dear Tasha, you mentioned the diaphragm. What is your opinion of belly breathing when you have a prolapse? I’ve heard it called the most natural way to breathe, but I’m concerned it creates too much intra abdominal pressure. Is there a safer way to breathe when there is pelvic floor dysfunction? By safer I simply mean less stressful on the pelvic floor.
    Thanks so much.

    Reply
  5. Anne, you have to teach yourself to use more chest expansion than belly expansion. The reason for this is exactly what you have stated…belly breathing does significantly increase intra-abdominal pressure. This is part of the reason that posture is so important to focus on when treating pelvic floor dysfunction. By standing in neutral spine posture, you have your shoulders set back and down which frees your chest/ribs for full expansion.

    – Tasha

    Reply
  6. Your Comments

    Hi Tasha

    I have been doing pilates and yogo for 2-3 years but now been told by the gynaecologist to stop both due to grade 1 cystocele/ urethrocele. I am awaiting my Hab it DVD. Does it clearly indicate which exercises to avoid ; can I restart yoga avoiding certain exercises or is it best to stick with your DVD ? I have also been stopped from my regular step aerobics and combat classes and reading your blog has given me hope !

    Regards

    Reply
  7. Your Comments I just read your reply. Thanks so much, Tasha.

    Reply
  8. Charu,
    You can definitely continue your yoga training, but I will have you hold off on your other exercise programs, including pilates, until you have a good base strength and a solid understanding of your pelvic basket. The challenge for many women is to shut down the big muscles they strengthen regularly and isolate the smaller, stability muscles underneath. This is often difficult to do unless you stop your more aggressive strengthening programs and focus on the smaller muscles of your pelvic basket. These are not big movers, just subtle “squeezers”. Once you estabilsh the strength and coordinated firing of this deep muscle group, then we can work our way back into your other activities. At that point you will have a good feel for the elevated position of your pelvic basket and any activities that blow pressure on your pelvic floor can easily be identified and have to be avoided. You will find several moves in pilates and your other activities that are not appropriate for you pelvic floor. Follow my lead on this and then feel free to ask direct questions as you work your way back into your workouts. Also, I highly recommend our Advanced Program available on our http://www.hab-it.com website.

    -Tasha

    Reply

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