UNDERSTANDING THE CORE
The word ‘core’ gets thrown around often in the fitness world these days and in most cases loosely. So I have decided to tighten up your understanding on the importance of training the core in the right way to optimize your results.
“The core works as a synergistic unit that is dynamically linked with the whole body and allows movement and support through a huge range of movement.”
What is the core?
- Take away the four limbs.
- Include neck and head as the rest of the body follows movement by the eyes and neck in functional everyday activity.
- Visualise the core as a cylindrical chamber that houses organs, has the spine as its foundation of support, includes the pelvis, ribcage and upper cervical vertebrae and head as its constituent parts.
Why do we need one?
- Our four limbs need a base of support from which they can function.
- Every time we move, the core musculature will act to provide both segmental and gross stiffness to the spine, to facilitate stronger work for the phasic (mobilizing muscles) used in the given activity.
Why train it?
- We move how we have learnt or been taught.
- The brain doesn’t know muscles, it knows movements. The limbs will create levers which the core will need to compensate for.
- We need to identify the weakness in our chain of movement so we can prescribe exercise to provide and restore balanced functional movement.
- The neuromuscular system will store patterns (motor engrams) of muscular recruitment for movement.
The inner unit muscles
- Transversus abdominis (TVA)
- Posterior fibres of internal oblique
- Deep multifidus
- Pelvic floor musculature
These allow for intra-abdominal pressure to occur. They stiffen the axial skeleton in preparation for movement.
It is most NB to train the specific function of the TVA, it:
- Increases intra-abdominal pressure by applying lateral traction to the middle layer of the lumbo-dorsal fascias. This traction creates an extension force in the flexed position.
- Is a major stabiliser of the lower back.
- Draws umbilicus towards spine (result of action)
The Outer unit
- Superficial to the musculature of the inner unit (core muscles)
- Consists of four systems which are mainly phasic muscles, primarily responsible for movement, they are:
- Deep longitudinal system
- Posterior oblique system
- Anterior oblique system
- Lateral system
- These systems rely on the inner unit for joint stiffness and stability to create an effective force generation platform.
- Failure of correct recruitment for the inner unit alongside the outer unit often results in muscle imbalance and injury.
The importance of having a strong ‘core’
- Outer unit offers stability and force in concert with the inner unit muscles (as these are relatively small and generate less force) to protect the inner unit, spinal ligaments and joints from damaging overload.
- The inner unit provides segmental stabilization to the spine therefore, maintaining its integrity.
- The outer unit provides gross stabilization maintaining the position of the spine under load and during motion. If the inner unit fails to work correctly, the outer unit can cause rotational and sheering forces upon the spine!!
With all this understood, it is of most importance that we train the primal movement patterns (Squat/ lunge/ bend/ push/ pull/ twist) which we use most in our daily and sporting activities. Effective conditioning of the outer unit should include exercises that require use of the inner and outer units together.
A strong core and proper conditioning are vital. I hope this article has helped you understand and provide substance to the word ‘core’, and just remember you can’t shoot a canon from a canoe!