See PART 1 of this blog to find out just what your “CORE” actually is and why it’s so important.
How to work on your INNER core:
This is where it gets tricky. Your Inner core is just that- it’s internal. It is meant to work automatically, without you thinking about it. Unfortunately, because of the positions we put our bodies in (namely, sitting at desks for prolonged periods) our inner core switches off and so we have to re-train it. Re-training requires correcting posture and then encouraging these muscles to not only turn on, but increase in both strength and endurance. It is very hard to explain to someone via text how to turn on their core correctly, it is much easier to have a health professional there with you, prompting and palpating and correcting your technique as you attempt to activate it.
In my experience, reformer pilates is one of the best ways to build up strength and endurance in the inner core corset (all four areas) and is what I recommend all my clients requiring core work to partake in.
However, let’s give it a crack. We'll start with learning how to turn on your Transverse Abdominals (one part of your 'corset':
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Tuck your pelvis under so your lower back isn't arching off the floor
Put your hands on your hips and feel for your T.A's (transverse abdominus - see part I for locating them)
Relax your outer (6-pack) tummy muscles
Gently imagine drawing your hip bones together to join in the midline (this is impossible - your hip bones won't move, but this is usually a great cue for helping to turn on your T.A's)
If you are doing this correctly, you should feel a gentle drawing/tensing of the muscles under your fingers. You should NOT see your tummy move or suck in excessively or your bottom squeeze. Remember: your inner core is INTERNAL - if anyone can see what you are doing- you are doing too much.
Now, hold that gentle tightening and slowly lift one foot just off the floor - don't let your hips rock at all. Lower your foot and repeat on the other leg. You will often find it's much easier to do this on one side of your body than the other. Aim for 10reps/leg without rocking your hips. Make sure you breathe!
*A great way to make this a bit more challenging (or obvious if you can't tell whether you're rocking or not) is to lie lengthways along a long foam roller. Now try not to move as you lift one leg up!
As you can see, there are a lot of steps to think about, and it's what I often refer to as a very "finickity" exercise as it's small and frustrating. Clinical reformer pilates allows you to use these muscles without having to think about it- which is why I suggest it for most people- it makes getting the knack of it a lot easier.
A great (and basic) way to practice activating most parts of your inner core without having to think too hard is simply by doing a pelvic tuck. This can be done in any position and automatically turns your inner core on without you having to think about it.
Simply imagine you have a tail and you are trying to tuck your tail between your legs. I.e without squeezing your bottom. This is the opposite of arching your back, and something we all tend to do in sitting and standing.
Now try maintain this tuck whilst doing day-day activities.
You are on your way!!
The next step is learning how to activate the infamous pelvic floor.....