Common Misconceptions About The Core
In this article, I aim to address four of the most common misconceptions about ‘The Core.'
1. Your core is exclusively your abdominal muscles.
In fact your core consists of all the muscles which attach to the pelvis, hips and spine.
Think of your core like a canister - a big pressurised system that stabilises your spine.
Included are the diaphragm, glutes, pirformis, hamstrings and quadriceps. Also under the umbrella definition of The Core are all layers of abdominal muscles, pelvic floor and the deep back muscles.
2. Your core can only be strengthened through abdominal work.
This is not the case. In order to have a strong core, you should adopt a wide range of exercise and movement patterns. Anything from squats, lunges, running, cycling, Yoga, Pilates, walking up stairs, dancing while drunk 🤣 all build stability and strength in your core. Ensure to also add in single side work to help improve balance and also get the muscles of the weaker side - and we all have one - working hard too.
A strong core involves having good control of the abdominal, pelvic and hip regions. The majority of the muscles found in these regions are involved in strengthening and stabilizing the lower back, protecting it from injury.
3. To reduce fat around your tummy and give definition, you should do abdominal exercises.
Quite possibly the biggest myth of all! Unfortunately you can’t spot fat reduce. We all have individual body compositions and do store fat in different places; some in our thighs, bum or around our middle, but in order to lose weight in our core area we need to look at our overall energy balance. In other words we need to be in a calorie deficit. This can be achieved predominately through diet but also with a mixture of cardio and strength based exercise. Once we lose fat - and it may be that your tummy is the last place you lose from - then abdominal exercises will help make those muscles more defined.
4. You need to keep your abdominal muscles tense during exercise in order to strengthen up the core and protect your back.
For decades we have been told to tense some of our core muscles by drawing in the belly button to the spine, or bracing in the muscles and maintaining a constant contraction.
Having a tense abdominal region make sense while maintaining a static position during exercise. However, the way our bodies move - especially during exercise requires intricate, complex and fluid movements and so our core needs to be able to move dynamically. That means it can constantly change from a state of contraction to relaxation and back.
Let’s think about running. If the core muscles remained contracted throughout the running pattern, it would make the body more rigid and less mobile. This may result in excess force and stress being placed on the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. This could increase the risk of injury.
Bracing the core can also have an impact on how we breathe..... if we brace over 70% of our maximum amount, it becomes harder to breathe normally. Not ideal when we’re already doing an activity that leaves us short of breath!