How To Engage Your
Deep Core Muscles
Stabilising your deep core muscles is essential for any exercise. Stay injury free and improve performance.
There's a slight difference of opinion amongst researchers, about exactly how to activate and stabilise the deep core. Ah those scientists make things more complicated than they need to be.
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A couple of Aussie boffs in 1996, showed that deep core muscles contract before any movement of the rest of the body.
Click here to see the muscles of the deep core.
Enough about the boffs, what's this actually mean for us? Well it depends on how active you are, and whether you've had any back pain or injury..
Don't Exercise Much?
Experienced recurring back pain?
Your deep core muscles are designed to naturally contract, and protect your spine in doing so. But if you haven't used those muscles for a long time (by being sedentary or through injury), then that natural contraction disappears.
Basically the paths between your brain and those deep muscles are broken up. So you have to literally teach your brain to connect the dots and activate the deep muscles again.
As we've established, the deep muscles of your core stabilise your spine. Those muscles don't need big power, but they do need good endurance. The aim is to be (subconsciously) using those muscles throughout the day, even whilst you're sitting.
Deep Core Muscle Contraction..
You need to consciously activate the deep muscles: (See your health professional first if you've had a back injury)
- Lie flat on your front on an exercise mat, relax and breathe normally.
- Keeping your hips and back still, draw your lower stomach in towards your back.
- Focus on the deep muscles, this is a very small movement when done correctly.
- Hold for 5 seconds and relax - make sure you keep breathing throughout.
- Repeat 5 times.
- Progress by holding it for longer each time, aim for 2 minutes or even longer.
It's a subtle movement that can be hard at first. Try pushing your fingers into either side of your lower stomach area, and then do the contraction. You should be able to feel the muscles contract.
You can do this exercise lying on your back too (with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat). Once you're used to the movement, practice it wherever you are (lying, sitting or standing). During everyday activities (e.g. standing in a queue), or even during other exercise (e.g. riding your bike).
With plenty of practice, those pathways between brain and muscle will be re-built. You'll be activating your deep muscles without any thought again.
Click here for more challenging core exercises.
Haven't experienced any back pain?
If you are an active person and exercise regularly, the natural contraction of your deep core muscles will be normal.
That means your brain tells your deep muscles to contract, without you needing to think about it.
The upshot is that you won't get much out of doing the deep muscle contraction described above. That's because the pathways from your brain to muscles are all in-tact.
You can still improve performance though, by strengthening your core as a whole.
Click here for these essential core exercises.
Click here for 5 tips to lose that stubborn belly fat.
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