Everyone has heard that you need to strengthen your core. There is a reason for this – every movement we do involves the core in some way. Therefore to improve in any sport or reduce muscle pain in daily life, a better functioning core can help.
Most conversations about core strength start because of the onset of back pain, and 8/10 people will have an episode of back pain at some stage in their life.
The core is the middle of the body – basically the abdomen. The core is like the foundations of a building; the better foundations perform, the better the other structures that come off it can perform. The core is often described as a house defined by muscular borders. There are walls (Transverse Abdominis or TA), a roof (Diaphragm), and a floor (pelvic floor). These are the main muscles involved in core strength, however, depending on the individual and the activity, may include the hips, thighs, chest or shoulders.
When we stand, we work the core. When we slouch on the ever so comfy couches that are made these days, we work the core. When we move, we work the core. If the core is STRONG, we can handle more time in these positions without causing pain or dysfunction.
The size of our mid section isn’t helping either. The classic Aussie pot belly is stretching the core. It’s very hard to have a good quality core if the mid section is being constantly stretched. Most women postnatally will also confirm that after nine months of gradual stretching, it takes a long time for the abdomen to feel strong and get back to where it was pre-baby. Even the most basic of tasks can require massive amounts of thought to complete when there is insufficient core strength or lumbar pain. Now that’s not to say that anyone lacking a pin-up worthy six pack has poor core strength, often its quite the opposite. In some instances when there is extra strain on the core, the muscles are working even harder to maintain function and it actually develops really good strength.
A key element of core strength is the ability to move with control. The body, including the pelvis and lumbar, are made to move. The stronger the core the better the movement that occurs, and it even looks better. Think about how elite athletes make their chosen sport look so easy and move smoothly and with control – it’s all thanks to good core strength.
So when we have a strong core, we can move without losing balance, and it allows our muscles to work more efficiently – run or ride further before our legs start to fatigue. This is because you are not losing energy keeping the pelvis steady. For example, more of the force the muscles generates goes into the pedal or ground, rather than being lost in other muscles of the body to maintain balance.
Sit ups are one strengthening exercise that many people know, but they are not the only answer, and are sometimes not the right answer at all! Think about the TA like a corset around the abdomen. A sit up targets the ever elusive 6 pack (or rectus abdominis) and will inevitably work the hip flexor’s, and therefore puts more strain on the lower back.
Our clinic would recommend routines like Indian Clubs that change the way the body moves, stability exercises like varieties of plank, or workouts using a fit ball to best work the core. Most importantly, it’s a case of quality not quantity. Some of the core muscles are only small and most likely haven’t been used correctly for some time, so a little bit of exercise, with correct technique, lots of the time, will get them firing again.
At Allied Health Collective we know that every person is different and every body moves differently, so we assess each patient based on their history, movement patterns and goals to determine what is best for them. Indian Clubs are one option but there are many ways to improve core performance. If you would like to know more about Indian Clubs or other exercises to help strengthen and improve your core, call the clinic on (03) 5443 1080 or book online.