Your core

The alignment makeover: Work smarter not harder

Selena DeLeon

Sunday, October 07, 2018

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DO you know what your core really is and what it does?

Many people have a visual idea that it is limited to the overrated chiselled abs that are used in advertisements; however, its primary role is to transfer force from one extremity to the other, and its secondary role is to stabilise movement.

Force and movement begin from the feet, moving upwards to the knees, the hips and then gets converted into energy through the core, which is then translated to the upper body. Being the centre point of energy conversion in the body, it stands as a key player for functional movement, which allows you to move effortlessly, stay strong and pain-free.

The core is a complex matrix of muscles that include everything besides your arms and legs. It is used for almost every movement of the human body, so you can see why its purpose is so much more than just making you look good from the outside.

Beneath the exterior, it has a three-dimensional structural make-up, with the innermost layer being made up of the transverse abdominals (aka TvA), which act like a layer of saran wrap that serve to contain your organs. This group of deep, stabilising muscles are the ones I refer to most in this text as I believe them to be of utmost importance to core control. Also belonging to this group in the innermost wall are the multifidus, which run the length of your spine and stabilise the low back and pelvis before movement of the arms and legs occurs.

The pelvic floor and diaphragm add to this group, which works behind the scenes with your breath, making your body a virtual energy machine — the oxygen you inhale being your fuel and the core your vehicle.

The secondary level comprises of the internal obliques and the most superficial layer are the prime movers — the rectus abdominis and external obliques, which form a wall which is what we see in a six pack. These muscles primarily provide movement.

It is a popular belief that crunches and abdominal curls are the ultimate solution for core training. However, being a force transfer centre, the core is best trained with exercises that use many primary moving muscles, such as a mat Pilates swimming exercise or a prone push-up. This allows for more functional or integrative movements which connect the muscles of the lower and upper body and bring out the main benefits of the core's role.

It is pointless to be very strong and have no control over our movements; this is a recipe for an injury. We must look at core strength as being relative to the amount of stability that one has to control the force we produce. In balancing our bodies, the consideration of strength, core stability, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function should be on the list, but motor control and function are fundamentally the most important because the other four cannot serve their useful purpose without these.

On a daily basis we rely on core stability, even just to bend down and grab something out of the back of the fridge, in order to keep your back safe. your core is working to stabilise the spine and surrounding musculature that supports you. The higher your core stability, the lower your risk of injury.

To achieve core stability, the plank exercise is one of the best methods to begin at any level. For beginners, standing upright in front of a wall, you can place your outstretched hands in line with the shoulders and feet about one foot away from the base. Keeping the legs long and closed tightly together, stand up on the toes and with the head upright, focus on holding the diagonal position with the chest and stomach in the same line. In a more advanced level, this can be done on the ground facing down. as long as the body moves as a single unit, you are doing it right.

The idea of energy moving from the outside in through the air we breathe and upwards from the ground when we walk, coupled with understanding how the body works on many levels to translate this energy into our daily movements, is a fascinating business. It make practices that bring intention and awareness to movement and breath working together, essential. Pilates not only puts your body into optimal movement patterns; it facilitates breathing and awareness which can rejuvenate, rehabilitate and renew your body, one step and one breath at a time.

Selena DeLeon has been a personal and group fitness trainer for 16 years. She recently transitioned into the world of Pilates and has a studio in Kingston called Core Fitness, where she helps people to move and live better.

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