Getting more from your core
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty lost his balance, but was able to regain his stability.
Many of us know this famous nursery rhyme, but it seems like something has changed. Normally when I hear this nursery rhyme, I’m anticipating Humpty Dumpty having a great fall. The fall is so great that all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t even put him back together again. But little did everyone know, Humpty Dumpty had been working on strengthening his core muscles.
I don’t mean he was just doing sit ups and crunches. No, Humpty Dumpty had been engaging his deep core muscles including the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum, multifidus…etc. What this did for Humpty Dumpty was give him more control over his body’s center leading to better balance. This better balance saved Humpty from a devastating fall.
Yes, this was a little bit of a fable, but it is also a helpful reminder of the importance of developing strong core muscles. Here are some helpful reasons to gain core strength:
- The trunk and low torso are the body’s power center, making up about 50 percent of its total mass.
- Abdominal muscles help protect vital organs, while also providing intra-abdominal pressure that supports the spine lending to decreased chances of low back stress.
The core is the beginning point for movement and the center of gravity for the body. If it can work for our round egg-shaped Nursery Rhyme friend, I believe it can work for us too!
Beginner core stabilization workout (1-3 sets of each exercise, 12-20 reps, slow tempo):
- Supine Drawing-in Maneuver
Starting position: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Upward phase: First take a nice deep inhale. Exhale, and as you do, draw in your abdominal muscles towards your spine. Let the exhale help you “hollow” your lower abdominal area.
Lowering Phase: Inhale and slowly return to your starting position.
- Floor Cobra
Starting Position: Lie on your stomach on an exercise mat or floor with your hands by your sides, positioned directly under your shoulders and hands facing forward. Extend your legs and plantar flex your ankles (toes point away from body).
Upward Phase: Gently exhale and press your hips into the mat or floor and pull your chest away from the ground while keeping your hips stable. This will arch your low back and stretch the muscles in your chest and abdominal region. Hold this position for 15 – 30 seconds
Downward Phase: Gently relax and lower your upper body to rest back upon the mat or floor.
- Two-Leg Floor Bridge
Starting Position: Lie on your back in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Attempt to maintain this gentle muscle contraction throughout the exercise
Upward Phase: Gently exhale while holding your abdominal contraction and press your hips upwards off the floor into extension by contracting your glutes (butt muscles). At the same time press your heels into the floor for more stability. Avoid pushing your hips too high as this generally increases the amount of hyperextension (arching) in your low back. Maintaining your abdominal contraction helps avoid excessive arching in your low back.
Lowering Phase: Inhale and slowly lower yourself back towards your starting position.
- Prone Iso-abdominal (Plank)
Starting Position: Lie on your stomach with your elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, palms down and hands facing forward. Contract your quadriceps to extend your legs and dorsiflex your ankles (pull toes towards your shins). Contract your core and abdominal muscles to stiffen your torso.
Upward Phase. Slowly lift your entire torso off the floor or mat, maintaining a stiff torso and legs. Avoid any arching (sagging) in your low back, hiking (upwards) in your hips or bending in the knees. Avoid shrugging your shoulder and keep your shoulders positioned directly over your elbows with your palms facing down. Continue to breath while holding this position for a specified time (5+ seconds).
Downward Phase: While maintaining a stiff torso and extended knees, gently lower your body back towards the mat or floor before relaxing.