Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Core - what is it?


Many of you are aware that I’m a bit of an anatomy geek – which I am actually very proud of!  I thought it may be useful to explain a little more about what the core is, and how the muscles should all interact with each other.

The concept of core training was developed by physical therapists looking for a new way to treat clients with lower back problems.  I’m sure some of you can remember experiencing back pain, along time ago, and where told to take bed rest!  And not surprisingly, this method of treatment wasn’t very successful.

The earliest resource on how the muscles of the core work together was published back in 1978 and was called “clinical biomechanics of the Spine.”  For the first time it was proposed that the abdominal muscles and the back muscles worked as partners to stabilise the spine, when the body was in a neutral position (sound familiar anybody).  Over the years, this methodology has expanded to include other muscles that contribute to the stabilisation of the spine. The modern-day core consists of 4 muscles:

1) Transversus abdominus – abdominal muscle.
2) Multifidi – back muscle.
3) Diaphragm.
4) Pelvic floor.

It is useful to think of these muscles creating a cylinder inside your body.  This is your inner unit.

Transversus abdominus – this is your deepest abdominal muscle, that wraps around the torso connecting the ribs to the pelvis.  It continues around your back and attaches to the connective tissue of the lower back. Its role is to draw in like a corset and narrow the waist.
Multifidi – are small muscles that look like little chevrons on your spine. They connect one vertebrae to another, sometimes three to four (or more) levels above. These are surrounded by the connective tissue of the lower back.

When the Transversus abdominus shortens (when you pull the abdominals in) it creates tension on the connective tissue of the lower back. The connective tissue acts like a sausage skin, with the Multifidi being the filling. The Multifidi reacts to being squeezed and creates a stabilising force on the joints between the vertebrae. It creates space between the vertebrae which is called decompression.

So, these two muscles are the front and back of your abdominal cylinder – but what about the top and bottom?

The top and bottom of the cylinder are the diaphragm and pelvic floor. Think of these two muscles as jelly fish, floating up and down with each other. In the ideal scenario, these two muscles react to how the core is working and also co-exist with each other. 

The diaphragm moves up on an exhale and allows the Transversus abdominus to react like a corset. This is why a lot of our Pilates moves are done on an exhale. The latest research shows that the diaphragm and the pelvic floor react to how the deep abdominals stabilise the spine, so they have a strong role in supporting the vertebral column.

I hope this has helped you to think of the inner unit in a slightly different way.


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