Whatever your fitness goals are, you'll hear a lot about the "core." This weekend I attended a fitness class at my local gym. Throughout the class the instructor kept repeating the phrase “Engage your core!” But at no point did she actually explain what that meant or how you should go about doing it! You may have some vague understanding that your core is somewhere in the middle of your body, or that it is important if you want to get a toned stomach. However, there is so much more to this group of muscles, so at Mama on the Move we decided to create an infographic to help you understand what your core muscles are and why they are important.
There is no universal definition of what ‘the core’ is but it is generally agreed that it consists of the deep abdominal muscles as well as the muscles closest to the spine. To understand how the core muscles work it is important to understand that muscles perform different roles within the body as either ‘mobilisers’ or ‘stabilisers’
‘Mobilisers’ are closer to the surface of the body and are responsible for performing fast, powerful movements. They tend to work at between 40 and 100% of their maximum capacity and tire quite quickly. In order for the mobilisers to function effectively other muscles need to act as stabilisers. These muscles need to work for extended periods of time so tend to work at 20%-30% of their maximum. One of the main characteristics of the core muscles is that they help to keep your torso still whilst movement occurs at the limbs.
For pregnant and postnatal women the process of carrying and delivering a baby can place a significant strain on your core muscles, meaning that we often suffer from conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, hernias, diastasis recti and low back pain. Quite often it is not just the case that these muscles have been weakened but our brain may also have forgotten how to connect with and communicate with them. This is one reason why it is so important to return to exercise gradually after having a baby, as you will be much more prone to injury or making any pre-existing conditions worse. Our pregnancy and postnatal programmes include Pilates workouts that will help you reconnect with and strengthen your core.
At Mama on the Move we tend to focus on the ‘Power Four’ as the main muscles of the core. The transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor, multifidus and the diaphragm. The location and the roles of each of these are explained in the infographic. Watch out for our upcoming blogs where we will discuss how you can connect with and strengthen these deep core muscles both during and after your pregnancy.