The body’s core muscles are used for stability, balance, lifting, pushing, pulling, and movement. Engaging the core muscles means bracing and tightening the abdominal muscles, which include the latissimus dorsi/lats, paraspinal muscles, gluteus maximus/glutes, and trapezius/traps. When engaged, the trunk muscles help maintain spinal stability, support the spine and pelvis in sitting and resting positions and during dynamic movements, and help prevent injury.
Engaging The Core
To know how to engage the core, individuals need to understand what the core is. The most important muscles for engaging the core include: These muscles are involved every time the body inhales and exhales, in posture control, and when using the bathroom, they start and stop the process.
- The rectus abdominis muscle is responsible for the six-pack.
- It’s a long, flat muscle that extends from the pubic bone to the sixth and seventh ribs.
- The rectus abdominis is primarily responsible for bending the spine.
- These are the muscles on either side of the rectus abdominis.
- The external obliques allow the torso to twist, bend sideways, flex the spine, and compress the abdomen.
- The internal obliques lie below the external obliques.
- They work with the external obliques in the same functions.
- This is the deepest layer of muscle in the abdomen.
- It completely wraps around the torso and extends from the ribs to the pelvis.
- The transverse abdominis are not responsible for spine or hip movement but for stabilizing the spine, compressing the organs, and supporting the abdominal wall.
- Commonly known as the lats, these muscles run along both sides of the spine from just below the shoulder blades to the pelvis.
- The lats help stabilize the back, especially when extending the shoulders.
- They also contribute to body ability when twisting from side to side.
- The erector spinae muscles are on each side of the spine and extend down the back.
- These muscles are responsible for extending and rotating the back and side-to-side movement.
- These are considered postural muscles and are almost always working.
What Not To Do
Individuals learn from mistakes, which might make learning how to engage the core easier by understanding what not to do. Common examples of failing to or not engaging the core correctly.
- The back slumps when sitting down – the upper body lacks strength and stability.
- When bending, the stomach sticks out more.
- Swaying or leaning far to one side when walking – lack of lower body strength causes balance and stability problems.
- The lower abdomen and back present with discomfort and pain symptoms.
Engaging the core decreases the chance of sustaining an injury at home, work, or exercising and can help with chronic back pain. It creates a stable musculature around the spine that keeps the vertebrae from over-flexing, over-extending, and bending too far to one side. Engaging the core muscles can mean different things, depending on what is trying to be achieved.
- For example, if doing bending work, the muscles needed, and the order in which they contract differs from when trying to maintain balance while standing on one leg.
- The muscles engaged will differ in their movement depending on whether an individual is:
- Trying to move the spine or stabilize it.
- Pushing or pulling weight.
- Standing, sitting, or lying down.
For a strong and functional core, the objective is to be able to engage the core in any situation. Engaging the core can be challenging, but with training and practice, the body becomes stronger. Practice engaging the core throughout daily activities that include.
- Bracing the core while standing, sitting at a workstation or desk, and walking.
- Day-to-day activities, like reaching for something from a high shelf, grocery shopping, and taking the stairs.
Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic can create a personalized program to address musculoskeletal issues, core training, targeted exercise, stretching, nutrition, massage, and adjustments to get the body to optimal health and maintain health.
The Non-Surgical Solution
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Vining, Robert, et al. “Effects of Chiropractic Care on Strength, Balance, and Endurance in Active-Duty U.S. Military Personnel with Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.) vol. 26,7 (2020): 592-601. doi:10.1089/acm.2020.0107
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Zachovajeviene, B et al. “Effect of the diaphragm and abdominal muscle training on pelvic floor strength and endurance: results of a prospective randomized trial.” Scientific Reports vol. 9,1 19192. 16 Dec. 2019, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-55724-4
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