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Sheltering Arms Blog

Getting to the core issue

working on your core

Posted on: February 21, 2018 by Robert Moss

By Matt Wren, PT, MSPT

“You need a strong core” is the mantra of the fitness industry, but what exactly is the core and why is it important?

Consider a sailboat in the wind and the 33 vertebra of the spine is the center mast on that sailboat. The inner unit muscle groups hold the spine upright. The outer unit muscle groups are the lines that anchor the center mast to the bow and the stern of the boat. When the wind blows and the ocean begins to roll, the outer group muscles are the lines that take on much of the force of the sail but they must synchronize with the inner groups that hold the mass upright in the first place.

The biomechanics of spine stabilization is complicated; however, the application as simple as the sailboat example. There are two sets of muscles involved with the core; the inner group and the outer group. The inner group, or the deep muscles of the abdominal wall, connects directly and indirectly to the lower back to help stabilize your spine and improve your posture. These muscles crisscross the trunk and connect the abdominal fascia, a heavy duty canvas like material, to the thoracolumbar fascia of your lower back. When the contraction of these muscles is synchronized your posture will improve and the spine will be protected from injury.

Synchronization is the key. The inner muscle group function is often forgotten during exercise routines but is critical to spine/core stabilization. The outer unit consists of muscles most people are familiar with — the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, abdominals, and lower back muscles. Basically all the large pulling, pushing and lifting muscle groups. These are the classic muscles people work on during exercise routines. Problems occur when exercise routines focus on isolating muscles from each other. Like the inner muscle group, the outer muscle group must work together. The outer group must also synchronize with the inner unit groups. Think of it as a symphony of motion not a violin solo.

Test your inner and outer group muscles
Tie a string around your waist at the level of your bellybutton. Stand tall and draw the bellybutton inward so the string is loose (inhaling is cheating). While the bellybutton is drawn inward and the string is loose, try performing household activities of vacuuming, washing dishes and lifting groceries. It is not easy to synchronize the inner and outer groups! This is just the beginning to achieving a stronger core and stronger back.

Sheltering Arms has a variety of fitness, wellness, and therapy services to strengthen the core and back. To learn more, call 804-764-1000.