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Core Stability and Abdominal Fitness

Core Stability is becoming a more frequently used word in the health, fitness and the sporting industries. But when I look around at the quality of training that presents its self, I can see that training the “Core” it is a very misunderstood subject.

a_core What is the Core?

If you take away your arms, legs and your head, you are basically left with the core - your back and abdominals. The Core is the only thing that joins our upper body to our lower body. Although the rib cage houses and protects all of the major organs in the upper thorax, it is the four layers of abdominal muscle that support and protect the viscera (organs) of the lower thorax. These four muscle layers wrap around the entire abdomen in multiple directions. When working properly they also assist in supporting good circulation and healthy organ function. Another major function of the abdominal wall is to stabilize our spine. The Core is the foundation for all our movement. Let’s take a look at the deeper layers of the Abdominal Wall.

The deepest layer is the Transverse Abdominals. It runs horizontally just like a weight belt and is, in fact, our own natural weight belt. Its connection is in the low back or thoracolumbar fascia in more technical terms, and Transverse Abdominals are the main stabilization of the lumbar spine region of your spine providing they are stable and functioning properly.

The next layers of the Abdominal Walls are the External and Internal Oblique Muscles. These muscles run diagonally across your trunk. Their job is to rotate our trunk and assist inside bending movements.

Then on the top layer, we have Rectus Abdominals which is the top layer of the abdominal wall. You can often hear it referred to as the “washboard” or “six pack”. This section of the Abdominal Wall is like a shield to protect our organs. They are one big sheath of muscle that attaches from the upper ribs and xiphoid process right down to the pelvic bone. It has two different neural functions, driven by two different nerves, so when the upper abdominal moves the lower acts as a stabilizer and you have the reverse when the lower is being worked or moving.

This muscle is commonly trained inadequately and too often with poor quality crunch style exercises. In the Core, the Rectus Abdominals are considered the outer unit of the abdominal wall. When overtrained or tight, this muscle can pull people into a round shoulder forward head posture.

As you can see from the picture (above), the many layers of abdominal wall wrap around our trunk in many directions, just like a package that has been wrapped for a long journey.

The core has eight different neural functions and as such, this makes it a very complex area. What that means is that there are eight different nerves that facilitate the control and function of the core from the Brain.

To train the core/abdominal wall properly you should first be assessed to determine where the weaker portions of it are. You can not determine a proper course of training and strengthening without a clinical assessment to determine the appropriate course of action to correct imbalances and apply the right training methods.

by Michelle Owen
Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiologist (C.H.E.K L3)
Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach (C.H.E.K N.L.C L2)
www.fitness-n-function.co.nz

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