There are plenty of articles and discussions around using your “core’’, but do you really know what is your core is? The answer might surprise you.
Technically your core essentially is your abdominal muscles on the front, your paraspinals and gluteal complex on the back, your diaphragm on the top, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature on the bottom.
Within this anatomical box are 29 pairs of muscles that help to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and kinetic chain during functional movements. When the system works efficiently, the result is the appropriate distribution of forces, optimal control and efficiency movement, adequate absorption of ground-reaction forces, and an absence of excessive compressive, translation, or shearing forces on the joints within the kinetic chain.
The core assists in appropriate distribution of forces, optimal control and efficiency of movement. For everything to work appropriately, our core requires cooperation and integration of active (muscular), passive (bones, ligaments), and neural-motor systems (nerve, CNS). This concept can easily become very complex. It isn’t as simple as “tighten your belly.”
The core and movement theories behind how and why it all works allows for good postural alignment, ideal movement patterns, and decreased potential joint dysfunction. Dysfunction in one joint anywhere in the body can lead to compromise elsewhere in the kinetic chain, as we see in some commonly in the clinic.
To develop a stable core is to develop the abdominal muscles. There are mainly two different types of muscles fibers that make up your abdominal muscles: slow-twitch and fast-twitch.
Slow-twitch fibers make up the deep core stabilizers, also referred to as “local stabilizers”. These are the deepest layer of abdominal muscles you have and are closer to the center of rotation of your spinal segments.
It is this ability to stabilize your lumbar spine in its many positions that enables you to overcome back problems and reduce your chances of a injuring your back or suffering a reoccurrence of injury.
They are ideal for controlling intersegmental motion because of their location and length, maintaining mechanical stiffness of the spine. They are ideal for responding to changes in posture and extrinsic loads. The key muscles of this system include: transverses abdominus, multifidi, pelvic floor muscles, and your diaphragm.
This ‘‘corset’’ around the abdomen consists of the abdominal fascia anteriorly, the lumbodorsal fascia posteriorly, and the transverse abdominis and internal obliques muscles laterally.
How does stabilization work? Intra-abdominal pressure increases due to muscle activation. This creates tension with surrounding structures including the abdominals and thoraco-lumbar fascia. The tension change in the intra-abdominal pressure stabilizing the torso, effectively creating an internal corset that provides stability to the spine.
The transverse abdominus is the innermost of the four abdominal muscles, and it has fibers that run horizontally. The transverse abdominus and the multifidi are considered ‘‘stabilizing muscles’’ and are fine-tuned continually by the central nervous system.
Research has shown that it is not simply the deep-layer abdominal muscles you recruit during stabilization of the spine, instead it is how they are recruited that is important. Co-contractionof the deeper-layer transverse abdominus and multifidi muscle groups occurs before any movement of the limbs.
In other research, it was found that those who sustained a low back injury had difficulty recruiting their transverse abdominus and multifidi muscles early enoughto stabilize the spine before movement.
Fast-twitch fibers make up the superficial, or outer-layer muscles, or the “global muscle system.” Because of their size and positioning these muscles are capable of producing a large amount of torque. They produce speed, power, control acceleration and deceleration, and give us the ability to make larger movements.
The transverse abdominus and the multifidi are considered ‘‘stabilizing muscles’’ that are modulated continually by the central nervous system and provide feedback about joint position, whereas the global and larger torque- producing muscles control acceleration and deceleration. Some of these global muscles include the erector spinae, eternal obliques, and rectus abdomens muscles.
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