Core conditioning (5 of 8)
The core is generally regarded as the area of the body from the bottom ribs down to the top of the thighs - front and back.
This includes the stomach, lower back, and pelvic muscles.
The core is used to stabilise the thorax and pelvis during dynamic movement, holding the body still so the legs and arms can move more effectively.
Core muscles are especially important for childbirth and continence. The core determines, to a large extent, a person's posture.
Core muscles align the spine, ribs and pelvis to resist a specific force. Examples are running, jumping, lifting. This has obvious implications for those involved in exercise and sport.
Core strength training is one of the 'hottest' topics to hit the field of strength training in recent years.
Research has shown that it can positively influence performance if done correctly.
Bear in mind that nearly all of our daily movements activate the core - sitting, standing, picking things up.
The core is the centre of power of the body, so the stronger your core, the more physically comfortable your life will be. Conversely, a weak core can result in a host of problems.
Central to the core are the four abdominal muscles: rectus abdominis (the 'six pack'), internal obliques, external obliques and transversus abdominis (TVA).
The TVA is the deepest of the abs, lying under the six pack. Weaknesses in this muscle can be the root cause of many injuries in sports people.
In order to really tone the six pack, the TVA must be exercised. The TVA helps to pull in the gut, hence its nickname, the corset muscle. It involuntarily contracts during many lifts and is the body's natural weight-lifting belt, stabilising the pelvis during lifting movements.
Weaknesses in the TVA can, therefore, lead to lower back problems.
Pilates type exercises are ideal to strengthen the TVA.
Advantages of a strong core:
• Can prevent lower back pain
• Improves functional movement
• Improves posture
• Enhances balance and stability
• Greatly reduces chances of injury.
Core exercises include lunges, squats, deadlifts, plank variations and back extension (see photos).
NB: when lifting, lunging or squatting, tense the abs, bend the legs, stick the backside out and keep the back straight!
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