Photo by Jacob Postuma
• Wherever you are currently sitting, scoot towards the front edge of your seat.
• Plant both feet solidly on the ground.
• Sit up nice and straight.
• Roll your shoulders back.
• Lift your chin up slightly.
• Contract your gluteus maximus (your buttocks!).
• Contract your stomach by sucking it in and holding it.
• Now continue breathing and hold this position throughout reading this article!
Many of us don’t actually know our own core very well, so let’s take a quick look at its function and what is actually part of “the Core.” It consists of muscles in the abdomen, pelvic floor, sides of the trunk, back, buttocks, hips and pelvis. Core muscles stabilize the spine and help transfer forces between the upper and lower body. In fact, there are 29 muscles attaching to the ribs, hips, spinal column and other bones in the trunk of the body.
Lack of core muscle fitness can create an unstable spine, and stress muscles and joints. Although back pain can be the result of a sudden and traumatic injury, more commonly it is due to weak and inflexible core muscles, poor posture and poor body mechanics during activities.
With the advent of modern technology, humans have started sitting more and moving less. This has contributed to poor posture and weak core muscles, as these are NOT stimulated sufficiently. Weak core muscles, especially the gluteal muscles, contribute to an unstable pelvis, which can lead to increased pronation of the lower extremity. In addition, the knees and feet can be severely impacted due to forced rotation of the lower extremities and injuries may result. Other parts of the body may be forced to pick up the slack of weak core muscles.
Have you noticed how many of us have started to be permanently slouched over? It is because much of what we do each day includes a forward curve in our upper back, such as driving, typing, watching TV, etc. When the core muscles are weak, they cannot counteract this forward position. Slouching can contribute to neck tension and headaches.
The answer to many of these issues is to strategically train all core muscles to become stronger and more fit. You can build up core strength doing whole body exercises, using free weights and stability balls ( just to name a few training modes) at least two to three times per week.
One of the best ways to strengthen your entire core is to incorporate a variety of planking exercises into your fitness regimen. Planking can be modified for all fitness levels and is a great way to start activating core muscles! At a minimum, however, you could begin working on sitting in the manner described at the beginning of this article on a regular basis.
Don’t underestimate the power of a strong core! It can prevent injuries, avoid pain and discomfort. It can protect your spine, improve posture and allow all areas of the body to function properly without overcompensating for a weak core. Do not delay; get “the Core” fit by starting your training today!
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