The core includes all major muscles that stabilize your spine. These include the whole abdominal area from front wrapping all the way around to the back, then all the small muscles along the spinal column. These muscles help the body to bend forward, backwards and sideways, stand up straight, twist, and stabilize the spine during movement. Usually during exercise we emphasise the major core muscles like abdominals and back muscles which are normally larger such as rectus abdominis, oblques, erecor spinae, and hip muscles.
However, there are more muscles that are smaller and are located deeper than the larger muscles which normally don’t produce a lot of movement, they only contract statically in order to stabilize the spine during upper or lower body movements. Such muscles include transversus abdominis(TA), piriformis, pelvic floor, multifidi and other muscles in the hip and core. These muscles are divided into global (larger movable) muscles and local (static contracting) muscles.
During movement, the local core muscles that stabilize the spine are not automatically activated when the global muscles are engaged. When TA activates, it flattens the abdominal wall and compresses the organs which acts like weight belt that increases the pressure in the abdominal cavity. Therefore individuals that lack strength in their TA normally tend to have a bulge in the abdominal wall when standing which increase the arching of the lower back and it is associated with lower back pain. However, to achieve maximal stabilization of the spine, the TA must engage before the upper and lower limb movements, but in individuals who have lower back pain this contraction is delayed. Also another important spine stabilizer is the mutifidi muscles which assist with the spine rotation and extension, which control the motion between adjacent vertebrae. It is suggested that in order to engage the multifidi is related to the ability to contract the TA.
If the standard core exercises such as crunches, planks, and back extensions are not performed in correct form, the local core muscles are not engaged. An effective technique to learn how to activate the TA is the abdominal hollowing manoeuvre. This can be performed in different positions such as on the back, on all fours, prone, seated, or standing against the wall. In order to perform this in supinae position (on the back), bend knees and place the spine in neutral position. Then Inhale while pulling the abdomen toward your spine, after that exhale as you perform the abdominal hollowing technique, holding 5-6 seconds, repeat 10-30 times. Check the lower back stays in neutral position during the exercise, and if your back flattens, that means other muscles besides the TA are contracting.
This is a very effective exercise that activates the TA. Such exercises added to the standard core exercises can lead to better equilibrium and stability whether performing in sports or daily activities. However, most sports and physical activities depend on a stable core muscles, and having strong core prevents risk of injuries, body is more balanced and flexible. Giving the right training to core muscles makes life easier and enhances health, which its exercises are not time consuming and can be done anywhere without any equipment.
LEECH, G. (2013). WORKOUT AT HOME. AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY, 94, 87.
Liebenson, C. (2003). Functional “Core” Workout. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7(1), 22-24.