To speak of CORE strengthening, we need to establish what the CORE actually is. Many people go to the gym to do crunches, sit ups, planks, etc., you name it. However, the most important part of strengthening the CORE is activation of the muscles that stabilize the spine mainly from the lower ribs to the coccyx. Adding upper back and neck muscle activation is also very important and, personally, I think they should be thought of as CORE muscles also.

Let’s start with the multifidus muscles. These muscles are very short and expand from vertebra to vertebra, and their specialty is to rotate the spine, and extend it. However, when we make fast and rough movements such as the russian twist, bigger muscles such as internal and external obliques and quadratus lumborum take over. The same occurs with the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles, other muscles such as the rectus abdominis (six pack muscles) and glutes take over during exercises such as planks or crunches. We need to consciously tell our bodies what to do to activate the smaller CORE muscles. There are several strategies we can use to help you activate each of these muscles. Here are some of the key points to keep in mind:

  1. Start by working in isometric positions to avoid compensating with other muscles

  2. Make sure you worry about form before you worry about strengthening, the ‘how to’ is most important

  3. Learn to coordinate muscle contractions with your breathing.

  4. Once you know you are activating the muscles properly, start introducing them to more dynamic exercises (coordinate with other movement patterns)

  5. Eventually you’ll be able to add resistance.

There is more variation to CORE strengthening but this depends on each individual. If you are not sure how to properly activate your CORE muscles, I suggest seeking help from a professional such as a physical therapist.

Physical Therapists are professionals who know how to analyze movement in different people. Since not everyone is the same, they need to make adjustments for each person. Let us help you activate your core and strengthen your body.

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Dr. Santiago Osorio