Mastering mobility cannot happen without a strong foundation. For truly efficient, powerful movement mojo we have to build a strong deep core.
I’m not talking six pack abs. I’m talking about the muscles that stop us from peeing when we sneeze! Or ya know, the muscles that keep our pelvis and spine stable. Kinda important. Unfortunately, many of us neglect our deep core and focus instead on our “abs” (typically rectus abdominus).
If you want your movements in life and sports to be powerful and efficient, this is a great place to start.
If you have a glute muscle not firing (and if you’ve sorted out why and are now working on firing that puppy up), then this is a great place to start. Your glutes want your deep core turned on. A stable pelvis and spine means your glutes don’t have to become your core!
The deepest deep core muscles are quadratus lumborum and psoas major, but we’re not targeting those today.
What we’re targeting:
Transverse abdominus and internal obliques.
The internal obliques lie beneath the external obliques and are superficial to, or “on top of” the transverse abdominus. They function primarily as accessory muscles to respiration (actively contracting during exhalation), as well as rotating and side-bending the trunk (imagine moving one shoulder to the opposite hip).
The transverse abdominus (TVA) helps to compress the ribs and viscera and provides thoracic and pelvic stability, as well as helping a pregnant woman deliver a baby.
Here’s the real kicker:
Without a stable spine aided by proper contraction of the TVA, the nervous system fails to recruit the muscles in the extremities efficiently, and functional movements cannot be properly performed. The transverse abdominal and the segmental stabilizers (such as the multifidi) of the spine have evolved to work in tandem. (source: wikipedia).
There are massive implications here for ALL kinds of ‘patterns’ (compensation patterns, pain patterns, injury reversal/prevention etc). We won’t go into any today, just know – this is important!
When harnessed effectively, the deep core stabilizers are our power house for movement! I’ve personally experienced the differences between powering my trail run through my core, rock climbing through my core, lifting weights via my core – and not, relying instead on peripheral muscles. And I can tell you from experience that when we harness the power available to us in this core compartment, every other movement becomes easier and less taxing on ALL other muscles (not to mention our fascia and bones!)
Here’s what to do:
During each exercise: Everything needs to compress inwards towards your core. Your spine needs to be NEUTRAL, meaning there’s no space between your low back and the ground. Your neck, chest, abs, hips…EVERYTHING is pulling IN and UP. The only difference between these three exercises is the hand placement and direction of isolated muscle contraction. For each one, HOLD FOR 15 SECONDS. Then rest for 10 seconds. Then repeat once or maybe twice, if this is easy for you.
Exercise #1: Hands push IN while your legs resist.
Exercise #2: Hands push OUT while the legs resist.
Exercise #3: Hands push UP while the legs resist.
These should feel HARD. You might feel yourself shaking and if so you’re doing them correctly!
Give these a try and give your deep core some love and attention, and these muscles in turn will help to support, stabilize and power you through your life and activities.