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What is the “core”?

To build a better core you need to exercise the different layers of muscle. The Deep Layer muscles consist of very small muscles that connect each of your vertebrae and control the movement of the individual bones that make up your spine. These muscle are attach right on to the spine and run vertically, diagonally and horizontally. You may have heard of the multifidus, interspinalis, rotatores and intertransverserii muscles. These often get weak, especially in low back pain patients.

 The Middle Layer or inner unit is made up of four major muscles that contract inwardly to create intra-abdominal pressure and spine stability. Intra-abdominal pressure, or ‘IAP’ for short, supports your spine from the inside in much the same way that pumping air into a football gives it shape and makes it solid.

We use these muscles when we ‘brace’ our midsections when we move. Bracing and the ability to brace strongly is vital for all physical performance, midsection appearance and spinal health and is something you need to learn how to do.

 A strong inner unit will a) enhance spinal health, b) improve your midsection performance and c) contribute to your appearance by creating a much tighter waist line.

The key muscles of the inner unit are the ‘diaphragm’ – your primary breathing muscle, your ‘transverse abdominus’ which encircles your abdominal contents, the ‘multifidis’ which runs up your spine and the muscles of the pelvic floor which supports your internal organs from below. These muscles form a cylinder with the diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom and transverse abdominus and multifidis at the sides.

The Outer Layer is responsible for gross spinal movements, and the ones that are generally thought of as the ‘6 pack’ muscles. There are three main outer layer muscles:

Rectus Abdominus: The rectus abdominus is the muscle located on the front of your abdomen and is responsible for that six-pack appearance. 

The six-pack appearance comes from the ligaments that criss-cross the abs dividing it vertically and horizontally. These ligaments, called ‘linea alba’ (or white lines), become more visible as you get leaner. The rectus abdominus is responsible for flexing your spine forwards e.g. when performing crunches and also works when you bend to the side in an action called ‘lateral’ flexion e.g. when performing dumbbell side bends.

Erector Spinae: Running up either side the rear of your spine, the erector spinae is actually eight individual muscles that overlap one another and extend form the base of your pelvis to the nape of your neck and skull. These muscles are responsible for extending your spine backwards and also lateral flexion. The erector spinae, although not an abdominal muscle, makes a big contribution to the appearance of your core by holding you upright in good posture. or spinae muscles also help promote spine health, especially in your lower back or lumbar vertebrae.

Obliques: These muscles make up the sides of your midsection and are best thought of as your waist muscles. You have three sets of oblique muscles – ‘external’, ‘internal’ and ‘transverse’ – on each side of your waist which start on your spine and curve around to your ribs and pelvis. The obliques work together to rotate your spine and to flex your spine laterally i.e. sideways and also contribute to forward flexion by assisting your rectus abdominus.

Come in to find out which are the best exercises for you to do correctly to build your core (and avoid injury).

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