What Lies Beneath…


By Sarah Anne Evans

When you think of core strength what do you picture?

An unobtainable cut 6 pack or a toned stomach? A bunch of people doing crazy things on large inflatable balls? Something you only need if you’re an athlete or weight lifter?

Many of us don’t know a great deal about the core muscles and their importance in the stabilisation of your entire body.  They hold us upright, they hold our organs in place and they stabilise the most important junction of joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons in our body, the pelvis and thoracic spine.  

Core stability is essential to your overall health and well being and it plays an essential role in the performance of the body during sport.  Whatever your sport, core is key.

Think of a strong solid core as the solid foundation through which power, generated in one region of the body, is transferred to another.  It’s our engine room for power.  

If you watch any sports person you will see the power harnessed at their core translated into movement.  A baseball pitcher is a perfect example, the energy to throw the ball is initiated at his core and is translated across his torso, into his throwing arm and forward.

In swimming, the roll of your body initiated at your core is what drives your shoulder and hip down in perfect unison as you spear forward with your recovering arm.  The arm is powered forward because of the force generated through your hip drive.  This is what propels your body forward through the water rather than pulling your way down the pool with your arms.  

Without an awareness of core stability and a knowledge of how we can strengthen it, we leave ourselves open to back pain, postural problems and injury.

The main player in your core is a deep muscle called the Transverse Abdominus (TVA).  The TVA is a large muscle that wraps from either side of your spine, around your torso and connects in the centre of your stomach via fibrous connective tissue (Linea Alba). On the way round, it attaches to ribs and top of the pelvis and goes deep into the pubis.

The TVA is the heart of your core.  

Its importance in pelvic and thoracic spine stability cannot be ignored, and in childbirth it is this muscle that allows women to deliver babies.

Layered on top of the TVA are the surface muscles that we see on toned bodies.  

The internal and external Obliques run from ribs to pelvis down the side of your torso.  They stabilise the trunk and protect the back, finely toned obliques help to slim the waist and give women an hour glass figure.

The Rectus Abdominis or ‘6 pack’ is the most superficial of all the abdominal muscles yet it’s the one we all yearn for!  The fact is, we all have a 6 pack, it’s just concealed under a (thick or thin) layer of insulation!

When training, many people work on what they can see in the mirror.  

A typical example is the big guy in the gym who looks amazingly toned and muscular but suffers from back pain.  He’s working on the final coat of paint to his house while it’s built on foundations of quick sand.

So how do you know if you’re engaging your TVA?

In order to know whether you are contracting the correct muscles, you need to be able to feel them working.  This is harder with the TVA than other muscles due to its position deep within your torso. 

The best way to locate and feel the TVA engage is to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Place your two fingers on the bony parts at the front of your hips (iliac crest).  Move your fingers in 2cms towards your belly button and 2cms down towards your pubic bone. You should now be directly over the transverse abdominis muscle. 

Take a deep breath in and as you exhale focus on ‘drawing up’ from the pelvic floor.  Imagine that you want to stop yourself going to the toilet.

When you contract your core correctly you should feel a gentle tightening underneath your fingers.  Remember to breathe throughout the contraction, as you don’t need to hold your breath to engage your core!

Another exercise to try begins from the same starting position but this time visualise drawing your belly button through your spine towards the floor.  Feel for a contraction of the TVA with your fingers.  You can also place one hand under the small of your back to feel the pressure as you contract your core muscles. 

Practice contracting these muscles for 10 second intervals, resting in between, and build up to a minute before you move onto other core stability exercises.  Again, remember to breathe normally through all the exercises.

You’re probably thinking, how can these small movements make any difference to such a huge muscle?

That’s one of the myths around core exercises, you don’t need to do 100 painful sit ups to have a rock solid core.  In fact if you suffer from back problems, sit ups with a weak core is a sure way to hurt yourself.  The fact that these muscles are so easy to exercise, without sweating it out in the gym, is one of the great reasons for strengthening them.

These visualisation techniques take some time to perfect.  Once you are aware of your core, you can begin to work on strengthening it and engaging it throughout the day.

Engage your core during sport, when walking around and even when sitting at your desk.  

Be mindful of the muscles doing the hard work of keeping you upright and stable.  The stability of these muscles will unlock the potential energy stored in your core, enabling you to harness it and use it powerfully.

To find out more about training your core stability contact us at enquiry@ tiswim.com.au (wellbeing@karmeafitness.com) or call 1800 007 505

Sarah Anne is a the founder of Karmea Fitness, a lifestyle fitness coaching company.  She is also a qualified Total Immersion Coach who is passionate about helping people who want to have a better relationship with water.


5 Responses to “What Lies Beneath…”

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    Sarah Anne keen to learn more about the core routines thks Jim

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