What is your core?
Q: What is your core?
A: (Me, 12 years ago) Abs!
I used to think my core was just my “abs” and my “abs” were just that six pack muscle.
It wasn’t until I took a Pilates class long ago, that I began to be able to understand the question “what is your core” because I finally felt like I had the answer at my fingertips. It was during this class that I felt how small movements helped me to activate my core muscles in amazing ways – I was doing less but feeling more.
So back to the question: what is your core?
Think of your core as a multidimensional network of muscles that holds you together at your center, from your ribcage to your pelvis.
The top of your core is your diaphragm.
The bottom of your core is your pelvic floor.
The back of your core is your multifidi.
The front of your core is your abdominal muscles.
Your core holds your guts in. It separates your abdominal cavity from your heart and lungs. Your core muscles hold you together by connecting your spine to your ribcage and your pelvis.
Most importantly, the muscles of your core mobilize and stabilize the spine in 4 different directions: flexion (forward bending), extension (backward bending), rotation (twisting), lateral flexion (side-bending).
The abdominal muscles consist of 4 muscles, listed from deepest to most superficial:
Transverse abdominis: the deepest and most important! Think of it as your inner corset. The TA fibers run horizontally, thus called the “transverse” abdominis. Stabilization of the low back and pelvis is the TA’s job.
Internal obliques: these lie on top of the TA, and the fibers run in a diagonal upward direction. They assist in side bending and rotating the spine.
External obliques: These muscles lie on top of the internal obliques and run in the opposite direction (downward). They also rotate and laterally flex (side bend) the spine, as well as assist in forward flexion.
Rectus abdominis: The overrated six-pack muscle. It helps to stabilize the spine but its main function is flexion (forward bending). Because it is the most superficial (ie most easily seen), it is mistaken to be the most important core muscle.
So the next time you ponder that question, “what is your core” hopefully you can approach the answer with new knowledge of the body you’ve been living in.
And if all you’ve been doing is a bunch of crunches in order to get a chiseled six-pack, you’re missing out. A well-balanced core is a strong core, built by moving in different planes of motion. So you’ve got to focus on every element of your core, not just the most superficial muscle.
If you are ready to commit to strengthening your core consistently, so that you can be stronger on and off the bike, join me here!