A brief search on Google of “core strength” yields over 8 million results. (1) With so much information available at our fingertips, it is shocking that the majority of Americans are unaware of how this important section of the body can influence everything from movement and pain to incontinence and insomnia?! Whether from surgery, pregnancy, or lack of use, the muscles of the core gradually weaken over time causing a variety of problems.
People also have a narrow view of what muscles are in the core. We must remember it entails more than the “6 pack abs” people associate with the core. The core also includes your obliques, transverse abdominus, the diaphragm, and multiple muscles between the ribs, in the pelvic floor, and the spine. (2) With all those muscles to focus on, it is easy to feel overwhelmed keeping them in shape! Most people choose to exercise their core so they can maintain a slim midline, but the core’s purpose is far more important than giving a waistline. Adequate core strength will help you to:
-Reduce your back pain by providing stability to the spine
-Improve urinary incontinence by strengthening the pelvic floor
-Expand your ability to lift, push, or pull heavy loads
-Enhance your breathing, digestive, and sleep function
-Increase your balance and walking performance
-Eliminate/Reduce your joint pain
Unsure of what to do? Here are some easy steps to identify and engage the correct muscles. :
1.Lie on your back with both knees bent.
2.Place your fingertips just inside the bones of your pelvis (bony points in front of your hip).
3. Create tension in your abdominals by pretending someone is going to karate chop you in the stomach. Do not puff your stomach out, or bear down as if going to the bathroom, and make sure you can maintain breathing while creating tension.
4.Once the muscles are turned on, (you should feel tension against your fingers), march one foot slightly off the ground, then the other. Keep the tension in your abdominals the whole time while breathing consistently.
If you have difficulty performing this exercise with ease, or you cannot feel the tension in your abdominal muscles, you probably could use a core tune-up by a local physical therapist. Don’t worry! Improvement in your core strength can occur in as few as 1-3 sessions, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much stronger you feel. Not to mention, your bikini will thank you this summer!
Netter, FH. Atals of Human Anatomy, Seventh Edition. Elsevier, Inc. Philadelphia, PA; 2019.