What is your core?
We hear so much about the importance of the core muscles and having a strong core. We know that Pilates is great for strengthening your core, but what exactly is your core? While most people think it’s simply your abdominal muscles, it is actually much more.
The core, or powerhouse, is the foundation of every exercise in Pilates and in life. Learning to use it as a dynamic center is the key to efficient, graceful, and balanced movement. The elements of the core include:
- Transverse Abdominis (deepest abdominal layer)
- Pelvic floor
- Multifidius (muscle along your spine)
These four systems work together to stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine when stress is placed on them as in lifting, bending, sitting, twisting, walking, running, or jumping. Lumbopelvic stabilization is important, because the bones of the spine are both mobile and delicate without the stabilization provided by the deep muscles that surround then.
The core stabilizes the spine through a complex series of interconnections between muscles and fascia. The first link in the chain consists of one set of the deep muscles of the spine, the multifidi. The second link in the chain, the transverse abdomens, acts like a corset to draw in the abdominal muscles and decrease the diameter of the waist. When the transverses abdomens contracts, it creates tension on the lumbodorsal fascia which surrounds the multifidi. The pressure of the casing against the multifidi also helps to create space between the vertebra which is called decompression or axial elongation.
The pelvic floor acts in conjunction with the diaphragm to create the top and bottom of the cylinder formed by the transverse abdomens, the spine, and the spinal muscles. The primary purpose of the pelvic floor is to hold the contents of the abdomen up against gravity and to control what comes out and when.
A great exercise for the core is a plank. Line your hands under your shoulders and keep a straight line from your shoulders to your feet and make sure to keep your hips in line with your body. Then hold for 60 seconds, break for 60 seconds, then repeat two times doing a total of 3 planks.