In light of our upcoming core training seminar, I would like to take this opportunity to review a few ways to maximize your core training and avoid possible injury.
Below I have highlighted a few possible issues that you may run into when beginning or progressing your core training program, as well as ways to resolve these issues.
1) You are not activating the correct musculature.
When training your core, it is important to ensure that you are targeting the correct musculature and that you are not relying on other, more dominant muscles, to compensate. If you are activating the correct musculature, you should primarily feel the muscles of your midsection working. You should not be experiencing any lower back pain, nor should you feel the exercises predominantly in the front of your hips. One way to ensure that you are using the correct musculature is to learn to activate your transverse abdominus properly.
The transverse abdominus, or TA, is often referred to as the “corset muscle” because the primary role of this muscle is to constrict or draw-in the midsection. This drawing-in maneuver increases the internal pressure of our abdomen and helps provide the spine with more stability. The transverse abdominus can be activated by gently drawing your belly button in towards your spine almost as though you are trying to suck in your stomach. You should hold this contraction during all of your core exercises, however, try to maintain normal breathing while performing this contraction.
For a more in-depth explanation on how to activate the transverse abdominus, you can reference the article I previously posted on our blog below.
2) The exercises you are performing are too difficult.
When performing core exercises, it is very important to make sure that you are exercising at a proper intensity. You want to select exercises that are challenging, yet doable. This means that your core training should be difficult, however, not so difficult that you are unable to maintain proper form. With any type of trunk stabilization exercise, you want to ensure that you are actually stabilizing your midsection. If a core exercise is too difficult, your midsection will begin to round, arch, twist, or side bend, which diminishes the purpose of the exercise itself and can possibly even lead to injury.
One of the more common examples of this occurs when people attempt leg raises while lying on their back. If the leg raise is too difficult for an individual’s strength level, their lower back will arch, increasing the gap between their lower back and the floor. The presence of lower back arching means that the exercise, in this case, is too difficult because the abdominal muscles are not strong enough to maintain a neutral spine. Continuing to perform this exercise will cause stronger muscles, most likely the muscles of the anterior hip, to take over. This decreases the effectiveness of the leg raise as a core strengthening exercise and can possibly cause pain and injury to the lower back.
The best way to know that the intensity of the exercise you are doing is appropriate is if you are able to maintain a neutral spine during the exercise. Therefore, when performing each exercise, try to prevent excessive bending/extending/twisting/or side bending of the midsection. By limiting excessive movement in your trunk, you will be using the core musculature for its primary function, to stabilize the spine. If you are unable to maintain stability of your spine during a given exercise, you should perform an easier variation.
3) You are favoring different types of core exercises while neglecting others.
It is important to realize that the core is comprised of muscles that run along the anterior, posterior, and lateral aspect of our midsection. There are many cases where people will emphasize anterior core training, whether this is due to personal fitness goals, aesthetic concerns, or limited exposure to core exercises. Focusing on only one muscle group can lead to muscular imbalance, which can decrease the efficiency of your movements and increase your risk of injury. Therefore, in addition to your abdominals, it is important to include exercises for your trunk extensors, hips, and obliques in your core training regimen.
Join us on Wednesday January 23rd in Mineola or Friday January 25th in Bethpage for one of our core training seminars, where we will address the issues mentioned above and offer instruction on safe and effective core exercises!
For my last article about the benefits of core training and activation of the transverse abdominus, visit the link below!