Your Core: More Than a Six-Pack
Every day, our trainers here at OnPointe hear clients request more ab exercises so they can work towards having a six-pack. This is not at all a bad goal, who wouldn’t want washboard abs? But when we get down to it, there is so much more to your stomach muscles than just a six-pack. The “six-pack” is actually one of four layers of abdominal muscle. Because it is the top layer, when we have well-defined abs and a low percentage of body fat, the muscles are visible. There are also two other muscles that work in concert with the abdominals to make up the core complex.
Let’s break down the core.
- Rectus abdominus: This is your six-pack, the most superficial layer of abdominal muscle.
- Internal and External Obliques: These are two separate layers of muscle, but I like to look at them as your corset muscles. They wrap all the way around your waist, front to back.
- Transverse Abdominus: This is your deepest abdominal layer, and the most important one to strengthen.
- Diaphragm: This muscles not only helps you breathe, but also helps engage your transverse abdominus.
- Multifidi: These tiny muscles run along your spinal cord and are the deepest core muscles. They help stabilize your back.
The muscles work together to provide a stable base for movement of the upper and lower extremities. When they are not engaged, we run the risk of injury and will often experience lower back pain. And as us Pilates-fanatics know, the core is an incredibly important part of the body to strengthen!
How to Make Your Core Stronger
As a Pilates advocate, instructor and studio owner, I know from experience that Pilates truly helps with stabilizing and strengthening your core. Some of the most effective exercises we do in class are the tiniest ones. It’s important to remember that you do not always have to feel that burning fatigue in your abs to engage your core. Try these exercises:
- Lay on your back, keeping your spine in a neutral position (imagine you have a grape underneath your low back and you do not want to squish it). Keep your feet on the ground with your knees bent.
- To engage your internal and external obliques, place your hands on your abs and feel your abs pull away from your hands. Do not squeeze your glutes! This one can be tricky, so try a few times, maybe with your eyes closed.
- Place a rolled up towel or a small ball in between your knees and gently squeeze the ball as you tighten your abs. You may not feel this one right away, but once you do, this is a great exercise for waking up the abs. Try imagining you are zipping up a pair of skin tight skinny jeans.
When you have these down, move to these fun stabilizing moves:
- Laying on your mat with a neutral spine, bring your legs up to table top (ninety degree angle at the hip and knee). Tap your right toe down to the mat, and bring it back up. Repeat with your left.
- Flip onto your stomach, and find a forearm plank. Tap your right knee down to the mat, lift it up, then tap the left down and lift. Do not let your hips move.
Give these core stabilizing exercises a try and see how you feel. When our core is strong, it is surprising how much stronger all of our movements become! Let us know if you have any questions so we can help you build your core and build yourself. OnPointe.
Author: Kaitlyn Rhoades