What is our Core??
Our core is so much more than the six pack muscles! Yes you can have a six pack and have a crappy core! Rectus Abdominus - the 6 pack muscle - is just the first layer to our core strength and does contribute a huge amount to our core strength. Lets have a look at the other muscles of our core.
The Pelvic Floor
These muscles sit across the bottom of our pelvis. Not only do they stop our internal organs from falling out but they also help to control defecation and urination, and allow sexual active and childbirth.
The muscles of the pelvic floor form three layers and run from the rim of the pelvic outlet (the lower opening of the pelvic bowl) to converge towards the midline at different angles. It is also very important for breathing as it raises to help push air from the body and lowers to allow air in - mimicking the respiratory diaphragm.
The Respiratory diaphragm forms the lid of our core. It sits under the ribs and spans across the cross section of the body, doming up into our rib cage. It has holes in it like the pelvic floor, but here they are to allow food and blood vessels to pass through into our abdomen.
The diaphragm contracts and moves down to draw air into the body. As it relaxes it pushes back up to force air out of the lungs. It is very important that w learn to control our breathing to help our core strength. This enables us to form a lid on the abdomen with the diaphragm and prevents any intra-abdominal pressure created from being lost into the thorax.
The Multifidus is found very close to the spine. It is one of our important spinal erectors and as it contract bilaterally it extends the lumbar spine. It runs the full length of the spine but is most developed around our lower back. As it contract unilaterally it aids in rotation of the spine. It is an important part of our core as it provides stability for our low back. Weakness here is linked to lower back pain and injury. It is connected to our other core muscles via fascial links to our Transverse Abdominis.
The Transverse Abdominis (TA)
The TA is the deepest of the abdominals and wraps around our abdomen like a corset. It runs from ribs to pelvis and is vital for our core strength. As it contracts it draws the abdomen in towards the spine. This compresses our viscera (internal organs), helps force exhalation and stabilises the lumbar spine. As with the multifidus, weakness here is linked to lower back pain and injury.
The Internal and External Obliques
The Internal Obliques sit deep in the abdominal wall. They run from the pelvis to the inside of ribs 9-12. The external Obliques are located on the sides of the trunk. They run from the outside of the bottom 8 ribs down to the pelvis. The obliques flex the trunk together, laterally flex the trunk unilaterally, compress the viscera and stabilise the lumbar spine.
The Rectus Abdominus
The six pack muscle! This is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles. It runs from the bottom of the sternum to the pubic bone at the from of the pelvis. It flexes the trunk and helps to compress the viscera but as discussed above its role is small in stabilising the core compared to other muscles above.
Other Muscles of the Core
It is very important that we don't ignore other muscles of the pelvis and the upper body. The Gluteals and hip flexors help to stabilise the pelvis. Latissimus Dorsi and Trapezius also help to stabilise the upper extremity. Each one of these muscles is closely related to our core muscles through facial attachments.
So now we know what it is that we have to strengthen the next step is learn the correct way to do it! To start with we need to learn how to establish a neutral spine. Check out my next blog post to learn what a neutral spine looks like, how to create one and how to integrate it into everyday life!