ADVANCED CORE EXERCISES
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Once you have mastered the T.A progressions, you can add difficulty by performing all of the previous exercises while lying on a ½ or full foam roll. This introduces more of an unstable surface to perform core exercises, therefore challenging your balance. See Figure 6.
WHAT IS MEANT BY “CORE” The body has 4 layers of abdominal muscles. The most superficial layer is the rectus abdominis, and this is your socalled “six pack” muscle. It runs vertically from your sternum and lower ribs all the way to your pubic bone. The next layers of abdominal muscles are the external and internal obliques. These muscles run diagonally across your abdomen in a criss-cross fashion, and are involved in rotation and lateral flexion of the trunk.
WHY CORE IS IMPORTANT Why all the focus on core? The T.A muscle helps to stabilize the trunk and lower back. It anticipates limb movements before they happen, and braces the spine for movement in order to stabilize it during the movement. Core improvement exercises can help train the muscles to stabilize the back and keep the spine neutral during dynamic activity. A supported neutral spine is the most ideal position for most activities, and partnered with core recruitment acts to stabilize and reduce the potential for injury or pain. A strong core increases your functionality in daily living activities at home and at work, and helps prevent injury to the spine.
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The deepest layer of abdominals is the transversus abdominis (T.A). The horizontal fibers run from the lower posterior ribs and fascia to the linea alba (vertical line of connective tissue in line with the belly button). The T.A compresses the abdomen, and helps stabilize the pelvis and lower back; it is a highly important core muscle.
Leave your fingers in place to test your core recruitment using the “balloon and fish-hook” method. Hold each contraction 5 seconds; perform 10X. Do not hold your breath.
HOW TO RECRUIT CORE Lie with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet together, as in Figure 1. Imagine your belly to be a balloon, and your bellybutton the tip of the balloon. To recruit the core, slightly deflate that balloon by pulling your bellybutton down towards your spine, then slightly up towards your ribcage like a “fishhook”. If you think of the TA as a belt that wraps around your torso from your ribs to your pelvis, to contract your core, you want to “tighten your belt”. A way to be aware of what muscles we are trying to contract is the “cough test”. Use your fingertips to find where your pelvic bones stick out on the front of your abdomen/hip. Once palpated, move your fingers 1-2 inches closer to your midline where it is soft. Hold them there while letting out a gentle “cough”. You should feel the muscles contract/press-up below your fingers. You want to recreate this contraction and feel this tension under the fingertips with each core exercise.
Level 3-T.A Heel Slides Assume start position (Figure 1) and contract your core. Take one foot and slide the heel along the floor until your leg is straight (see Figure 4). Return to start position and repeat with other leg. Perform 10X with each leg.
After successful recruitment of your core, progress to the following exercises: Level 1-T.A Knee Fallouts Assume start position (Figure 1) and contract your core. Slowly allow one knee to fall out to the side (no more than 30 degrees), keeping the core contracted the entire time. Alternate legs. Perform 10X for each leg. See Figure 2 below (Knee Fallouts). Figure 2
Level 2-T.A Single Knee Lifts Assume start position (Figure 1), and contract the core. Slowly raise one knee until the knee and hip are at 90 degrees (See Figure 3). Return to start and alternate legs. Perform each leg 10X.
Level 4-T.A Deadbug Assume start position (Figure 1) with your arms resting at your sides. Tighten your core. While holding this contraction, lift one knee up off the floor at the same time as lifting the opposite arm. The arm and hip should be perpendicular to the floor, and the knee should be bent at 90 degrees (See Figure 5) Return to start position and repeat on opposite side. Perform 10X on each side.