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Getting to the CORE!

How functional is your core?

Saul Yudelowitz Bsc (Hons)

There have been many articles written about the core and how to contract these muscles in a functional manner. One of the main problems here is that there is no cross over from specialist areas like pilates, physiotherapy and prenatal classes to name a few and so this is a good example of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.

The core is not your trunk less your head, arms and legs as many people may believe; it is a very complexed group of muscles from a facial and neurological point. The main muscles that make up the core are the:

1. Transverse abdominals (Trva)
2. Diaphragm (Dph)
3. Pelvic floor (Pf)
4. Multifidus (Muf)

The pelvic floor is neurally and facially attached to the feet so foot biomechanics is vital to the correct functioning of the pelvic floor which ultimately has a significant effect on the overall function of the core. This means that lying down on your back or side and exercising the core muscles as in the Kegal exercise with no progression to standing on your feet is a rather short sited way of doing any functional exercise unless you plan to stay on your back for life!

Using an exercise ball to roll forward on with no understanding of how the Trva and Pf should contract is another dysfunctional way of exercising the core. Any one who does hundreds of sit ups for core exercise has a rather poor understanding of the entire abdominal musculature. The examples of incorrect exercises are numerous, so letís look at what you should be doing!

To understand how to exercise correctly you first need to understand what the cores function is. When the core contract it allows for a biphasic transfer of energy between the upper and lower limbs in a contralateral manner. What this means is that we have evolved to rotate during movement. A dysfunctional core which does not contract will allow energy to be absorbed by the lower back and not transfers the energy, this is one of the reasons that lower back pain is so prominent in out society.

All movement of the human body is done relative to the protection of the central nervous system (CNS). If you can understand how this takes place then you will understand how humans are designed to move so I challenge any one who says that we are not designed for upright bipedal gait!

There are three muscles that need to contract for the core to work in a functional manner and because the Dph is involved breathing is included. First we need to look a basic anatomy of the Trva. This muscle is very complexed as it has a facial dividing it into an upper and lower part. The upper is a phasic muscle and works in conjunction with respiration, especially forced. The lower is a tonic muscle and works primarily in stabilisation. This facial divide is known as the arcuate line.

The pelvic floor has two basic divisions to it so you would need to contract two different muscles for this to work.

To contract the core muscles in a functional manner you need to

1. Pull up on the anus

2. Pull up on the testicals/vagina

3. Pull the lower Trva in towards your sacrum.

The simplest and easy way in which you can test to see if your core muscles are working in a functional manner is, if you sneeze you should be aware that you automatically pull up on the anus just prior to sneezing.

One of the questions that therapists ask their patients who they suspect have a dysfunctional core is do you have any mictration when you cough, laugh or sneeze? When we sneeze there is a tremendous amount of intra abdominal pressure that is created, if you do not get your core firing in a functional manner then the chance of having mictration later in life is high. Please note that men also develop mictration however they are generally more conservative at reporting their genital symptoms and so this issue is incorrectly associated with women.

The centre of gravity of the body is arguably just anterior to S2. When you contract all the muscles of the core the centre of gravity is stabilized thus creating a more stable platform to move from and ultimately protecting the CNS during movement. If you would like to learn a functional approach to exercising your core feel free to book in.

The information contained in this Newsletter was prepared from medical and scientific sources which are referenced and are believed to be accurate and reliable. The information herein should not be used to treat or to prevent any medical condition unless it is used with the full knowledge, compliance and agreement of your personal physician or other licensed health care professional. Readers are strongly advised to seek the advice of their personal health care professional(s) before proceeding with any changes in any health care program.

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