How (test) many times have you wondered or said to someone that you wanted a stronger core?
Or have you ever wondered why you aren’t “feeling” or seeing changes in your fitness even though you should with how much you are working out?
We get that a lot here, and when someone expresses this to me, I ask, “What do you mean by that?” This is often met with confusion because the definition of the core is not very clear.
Knowing about what the core is and how to access it is essential to getting the most out of your workouts.
What is your core and how do you strengthen it?
I like to break the core down into two parts:
- The deep core
- The outer core
The deep core is made up of four main muscle groups: the pelvic floor, the transversus abdominis, the diaphragm, and the multifidus. These muscles work together as a team to keep your spine stable and alert the rest of the system when more reinforcement is needed while your arms and legs are moving. The deep core also helps maintain an ideal amount of pressure within your body, which helps keep other systems functioning well (like breathing, digestion, blood flow, etc…).
The outer core is the part of the core that, with major components of the fascial system, help connect your right leg with your left shoulder and arm, left leg with your right shoulder and arm – to enable you to use your biggest muscles located in your arms and legs more efficiently.
The deep core is essential for your outer core to work well. Together they are essential for mastering other movements.
How do you train your core muscles?
So how do you train the deep core versus the outer core? Is there a difference?
It depends and sometimes.
When the body undergoes a major change or trauma, (significant weight gain/loss, prolonged sickness, childbirth, breast augmentation/reduction, or abdominal procedure, to name a few) it is not unusual for components of the deep core to go…offline.
Why? Typically, because of direct trauma to the muscle, fascial restrictions/scar tissue not allowing the muscle to function optimally, or as a protective response.
When this happens, it is best to restore the deep core through myofascial release and deep core specific training, before or while simultaneously introducing other core exercises that incorporate the outer core. Otherwise, certain areas of deep and outer core are being loved on while other areas are not…which can limit your healing and ability to progress.
In absence of the issues I presented earlier and/or when your deep core is restored, you can train both the deep and outer core simultaneously. The key is how you approach the exercise.
Regardless of the scenario, see what happens when you do the following in any position you choose…
- Gently contract your pelvic floor muscles by imagining that you are closing your muscles around a bean in your vaginal opening and gently lifting the bean into your body. Now let the bean go. What does that feel like? Where do you feel it? What happens to your breathing?
- While keeping your pelvic floor relaxed, gently draw your belly button inward towards your spine as if there was a string attached. Now let that go. What happens to your breathing?
Now combine steps one and two. What does that feel like? Where do you feel it? What happens to your breathing? Which option makes you feel most connected to your lower abdomen while also being able to breathe? Whichever approach feels best, apply that to your favorite core exercises.
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- Do you want to learn how to breathe better?
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Finally, if you watch our webinar and send us an email about which strategy made the biggest difference for you, we will enter you to win a free week of yoga at our beautiful studio. One drawing every week so several will win! You can reply to any of the emails you receive from us – we read them all.
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