So we’ve done a core-themed Yoga class. We braced our core and breath. But how do we actually activate the deeper core muscles that have been proven clinically to improve lower back health?
First we need to sort out the confusion. A FLAT LIKE PANCAKE BELLY does not mean you have a strong core. Quite frankly, if you do see ladies/guys with 6 packs – the rectus abdominis, that just means that they have lower body fat percentage allowing the show-off muscles to, well, SHOW OFF!
What we essentially want to activate, is the transverse abdominis, the corset-like muscle wrapping around your body.
How do you really feel your deeper core muscles?
Your core abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk like a corset. They run from the front of your abdomen, around your waist and insert via connective tissue into your spine. Deep abdominal muscles work to assist spinal and pelvic control. Ideally these muscles should work with your pelvic floor muscles.
The best position to locate your deep abdominal muscles is just inside your pelvic bones. If you wrap your thumbs and forefingers around your waist, your fingers will rest directly above your core abdominal muscles, just inside your pelvic bones. This is the best place to feel your deep abdominal core muscles as they are the deepest of your layered abdominal muscles.
Exhale and pull your belly in and up SLIGHTLY. Then pull your pelvic floor up as if you’re holding your wee (slightly as well). It can be challenging to feel the gentle tension created when your core muscles are correctly activated. Ideally you should feel a gentle tension or tightness under your fingers with correct core activation. You shouldn’t feel a strong abdominal in draw – core muscles are postural muscles that should be gently active all the time, just like the postural muscles holding up your head.
Put your core to test!
Now that you know how it’s activated, try to put it in test. An inversion and a lolasana tells a lot about core strength.
It takes a lot of core strength to find balance, especially on your hands, upside down. Core activation helps to straighten the back and release tension from our lower back. In addition, shoulder mobility is much needed here, along with activation of the adductors and gluteus maximus. But know that with a strong core, you build up the foundation for any kind of exercises. Even just a standing posture, because when you learn how to move from your core, you make every movement lighter and easier.
The exercises to help your core strength, without crunches!
- Starting on hands and knees, step back on to your toes and stack shoulders on top of wrists. Make a straight line from heels to hips to shoulders. Make sure that your core is braced so that you protect your lower back. Rounding and doming up through the upper back by pressing down on the heels of the hands so that your chest does not fall towards the ground. Basic Plank can be done on forearms or on your hands. To reduce stress on the wrist, drop down on to your forearm but be warned that forearm plank is actually harder.
– Keep hips lifted and stack one hip on top of the other. Here is an option to raise the top leg if comfortable otherwise, stack feet or stagger the feet or drop the bottom knee to the ground without dropping the hips.
Seated Leg Lifts
- Start by sitting and placing hands on either side of thighs with legs extended. Round through the back and scoop in through your belly, lift one leg up at a time or try both legs. Try using the abdominals to lift the legs and relax the legs as much as you can. If you're comfortable lifting both legs off, try pressing down on the hands and lift your hips up as well. I like to modify this version by placing hands on the blocks to give an extra height while lifting the sit bones and legs off the ground.
Navasana or Boat Pose
– Start with bent arms and legs. Then slowly straighten up. Keep back nice and straight. Use core to lift legs.
Have you tried any of these highly effective core activation exercises? If so, please tag us at @MoveActive #MoveActive #MoverOfTheMoment, we’d love to see you pulling those moves! And, have the chance to be featured on our website, social media channels AND win a free pair of Non Slips to supercharge your practice!