‘Core training’ is an often misunderstood area in health and fitness. Most people know a bit about the anatomy in this area and maybe a few exercises, but not so many are aware that learning to move your spine well can be a more valuable addition to your training than any ‘ab’ or ‘core’ exercise.
There are a lot of muscles that chip in when it comes to managing forces that occur around the centre of the body as we move. Some of them get much more press than others, maybe because of their appearance and closeness to the surface of the body.
There are some deeper muscles such as the Psoas that do a lot of good work in stabilising the spine, as well as muscles that act in teams to effect the mid section, but for the purposes of today’s blog we’ll look at the at a few that most people have heard of:
The Rectus Abdominis (running vertically and often associated with the ‘six pack’), the Abdominal obliques (Which have vertical and horizontal, as well as oblique fibers) and the Transverse Abdominis, with a mainly horizontal orientation.
When we turn our attention to a particular group of muscles, a good place to start is to look at where they start and finish.
Broadly speaking, all of the muscles above have their origins and insertions on the pelvis, and in various places on the last 8 ribs. Importantly, these muscles vary enormously in terms of the direction of their fibers as they traverse this space.
So, any movement between these structures will involve some or all of them to some extent.
This is good news for people looking to target these muscles, because now we know that they don’t just work in flexion of the spine- as in many ‘ab exercises’ – but we can actually include them in just about any position or movement we like!
Because the abdominals run from our pelvis to rib cage, they will be involved any time there is a change in space between the two.
In real life and in sport, this often occurs during a counter rotation of the upper and lower body, highlighting the importance of the lateral and oblique orientations of many of the fibers in the muscles mentioned above.
You’ll see this in everything: from running, to hitting and throwing sports, to football or striking in martial arts.
Movement begins in one area, and continues throughout the body, often gaining extra power from pushing into the ground, or through the body creating its own resistance in order to load muscles for motion and stability (as in a swinging arm helping to load the abdominals and opposite hip in running).
When we build our exercises with this in mind, we also tie in our exercises with meaningful movement patterns, rather than only viewing the muscles in isolation.
This is very important because Movement patterns within different sports will each have their own version of a ‘core’, depending on where, when and how motion begins and ends.
We know that Motion in one area always has consequences throughout the body.
We can really take advantage of this when our hands and feet are in contact with the ground.
Between them our hands and feet contain over half of the bones in our body, and well over a hundred joints.
This creates a huge variety of possible training variables, especially as there are so many ways we can make this contact with the ground.
Each one will give its own equal and opposite response for our core muscles, (and our bodies in general) to deal with, which is great for bulletproofing our body as a whole and laying the foundation for full body strength.
This is one of the reasons why at Joint Dynamics we use crawling and various other ground movements in a number of different training scenarios.
If you’re looking to take your core training to the next level, it’s a great idea to challenge the relationship between your upper and lower body with a wide variety of spine movements.
To really spice things up and add even more variety, include plenty of movements with your hands and feet on the ground!
Next week we will touch on how we approach movement and spine health in clients with pain or difficulty in motion.