“Activate your core” they say…
But what does that mean?
Our bodies have multiple ‘cores’; shoulder core, abdominal core and pelvic core. We use the word ‘core’ with the intention of increase stability in the area.
By activating our abdominal and pelvic core we are increasing the pressure in our abdominal and pelvic region which provides support and stability to the joints around. This in turn allows us to move while reducing the risk of injury.
How do we activate our abdominal and pelvic core?
The muscle we are targeting is called your transverse abdominus aka TA. Our TA runs from one side of your spine, around your belly and to the other side like a belt. The TA is fairly deep so when we activate the muscle we should not see your belly bloating or being sucked in and you should be able to breath normally.
To find your TA, locate your hip bone and place your fingers 1 inch in and down, where your jean pockets would be. When relaxed, this muscle should feel squooshy. This is a healthy muscle. When contracted, this muscle should swell into your fingers. To contract the muscle we can imagine an elevator in your stomach. You want to try and contract that elevator from all directions. To add to the exercise, you want to combine the pelvic floor by doing a kegel i.e. holding in your pee.
Now, depending on the activity you are doing, you will require different amounts of abdominal core contraction. So the next step is to be able to bring that ‘elevator’ to different floors; ground floor is where your muscles are completely relaxed and the 10th floor is where you are doing a 1 repetition maximum (rarely needed for most people).
- Try it now, activate your TA to the 2nd floor and hold for 5-10 seconds i.e. a postural activation or changing from one position to another e.g. sit to stand.
- Now, bring that elevator to the 5th floor and hold for 5-10 seconds i.e. you are lifting a moderately heavy box
- Then drop the elevator to the 3rd floor and hold for 5-10 seconds. Be sure that you haven’t let the entire muscle relax.
- Contract again to the 7th floor and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Relax the elevator to the 2nd floor and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Bring the elevator down to ground floor and turn the muscles off.
This is something that we all need to practice and be aware of as we move throughout the day. As you become more comfortable with it, you can start integrating this into ALL you other exercises. It takes 6,200 repetitions to create a habit so better get started!