What is my core?
- A group of muscles which help to strengthen and stabilise the core. There are three muscles that make up your deep core, these are the Transverse Abdominis, the pelvic floor and Multifidus.
- The transverse abdominis (TrA) is the deepest layer of your core and plays an extremely important role in postural stabilisation of your lumbar spine.
- The transverse abdominis extends from the ribcage to the hips and when it contracts it acts as your bodies natural corset, supporting the spine in a similar fashion to how a support belt would.
- Weakness of this muscle can be one of the many causes of lower back pain, pelvic pain and hip injuries.
- The deep core’s main function is to stabilise the lower back and pelvis before any movement of the arms or legs occurs.
How do I activate my core?
There are many analogies that can help you to visualise and activate the Transversus abdominis. The most common ones that we use are;
- Imagine you are trying to close the top button on a tight pair of jeans
- Imagine your two pointy hip bones are elevator doors, and you need to close them using your stomach muscles
- Imagine there is a string around your hip bones. Draw the string inwards towards your belly button.
- Gently pull the area below your belly button in towards your spine while keeping your upper core relaxed.
- Imagine you have a bucket of water on your lower stomach and you are trying not to spill it
Whilst your imagining one of the scenario’s above, remember;
- Gently draw your lower stomach in as you perform this movement.
- When you are contracting this muscle you shouldn’t feel any movement of your hips, pelvis or spine.
- If you pop your thumbs on the inside of your hip bones, (approximately 2cm inwards) while contracting, you should feel a light, deep tension under your thumbs rather than a contraction that pushes your thumb up. (Remember all you need is that 30% contraction to be effective!)
How long should I strengthen my core?
Once you can isolate and activate your deep core, it is important to strengthen it using the following format:
- Hold the contraction for 3 – 5 seconds and then release.
- Repeat the contraction and hold for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- 3 – 4 times per day for 4 weeks.
Once the deep core is strong and is able to activate in isolation, you can then add in more dynamic Pilates exercises such as:
How do I know if I’m activating my core correctly?
To be 100% sure that you are effectively activating your deep core, your Physiotherapist can use Real Time Ultrasound (RTUS) to get a detailed image of how your muscles are working. If you would like to book in for a comprehensive Pilates assessment, please contact one of our clinics today.