A few weeks ago, I wrote an article defining core stability and why it is so important to correctly activate and maintain during our recreational and daily activities. In this article, I would like to continue with this topic and discuss some basic core stability exercises.
Remember the 4 main muscle groups that make up the core are Transversus Abdominus (TA), Multifidus (MF), Pelvic Floor muscles (PFM), and the Diaphragm. Today, we will discuss the activation of Transversus Abdominus (TA), which is the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your abdomen like a corset and is connected to tissue surrounding the spine.
To start, we need to first ensure your pelvis is in its neutral position. Sit tall and comfortably with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your hips and see if you can first isolate ‘rocking’ your pelvis forward and back, i.e., rock pelvis by increasing the arch in your low back so that you roll towards the front part of your sit bones, then rock the pelvis back as if you are trying to flatten your low back and are now sitting on the back part of the sit bones. Do this a few times and then come to the ‘middle’ of these two extremes to find that ‘neutral’ position. This will be your starting position to activate TA. Now place one hand on your belly and naturally feel your belly move forward into your hand when you INHALE a regular breath. Then, as you exhale, gently activate TA by indrawing your belly in towards your spine. Do this a few times then see if you can keep the TA activation (keep belly in towards your spine) as you continue to breathe normally. Next, we can progress to moving the limbs while still keeping the pelvis in the neutral position, keeping TA activated, and continuing to breathe normally. So try lifting each arm up and down. Then try lifting one leg (as if you’re marching in sitting). Perform slowly, as it is more difficult and more effective. Easier said than done! If you find it too easy, you likely aren’t keeping your pelvis neutral or your core engaged correctly. You can also try this same series while lying on your back: Keep your knees bent so your feet are flat on the floor. 1) find neutral pelvis 2) correctly activate TA with an exhalation 3) keep TA activated while breathing normal 4) move each limb slowly and without changing the position of your pelvis. When you are lying on your back, ensure you are NOT using your stronger Rectus Abdominus muscle to compensate. If your belly ‘pops’ up towards the ceiling while you move your limbs, you know you have engaged the incorrect abdominal muscle and are therefore performing the activity incorrectly and ineffectively. You can also repeat these same progressions while lying on your stomach and then also while on your hands and knees: Arm lifts up and forward (one at a time), leg kicks (knee straight) and then also try lifting your opposite arm and leg at the same time. More advanced core stability activities may involve a plank position by supporting yourself up on your elbows and feet while maintaining all the above. There are many more progressions including standing balance and other functional activities. Pelvic Floor muscle activation can also be added. Remember, a stable core reduces strain on the spine by helping maintain optimal postural alignment which will help reduce risk of injuries whether you are playing sports, doing housework, simply walking or sitting and driving.
To ensure you are correctly engaging your core and to incorporate safe and appropriate core exercises to suit your needs, it is wise to invest your time with a qualified trainer or physiotherapist for a few sessions first.
This article is not intended to diagnose or treat. Please consult with your physician or other health care provider before attempting the exercises. Shelly Prosko is a Registered Physiotherapist and Yoga Therapist at Sun City Physiotherapy Winfield. She can be contacted at the Winfield clinic (250.766.2544) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.