Core Identity: Head, Shoulders, Butt, and Toes

What is at your core? We can speak to this topic both metaphorically and physically. I’ll speak to the physical and let you feel the domino effect on the rest. While the abdominals lie geographically at the center of your core, don’t forget about the big picture.

We are constantly hearing “it’s all about the abs,” “engage your core,” “fire your abdominals,” “sink the belly button”, “pull up your pelvic floor”, “close the ribs, “strengthen your abs” for a healthy spine. This can leave most people reiterating inefficient muscle recruitment. Because we don’t have “abs”! We have an intricate abdominal wall made up of many separate muscles with fibers running in all different directions with unique and overlapping functions.

I am very thoughtfully saving abdominal engagement for another day because I want you to think a little differently and focus on the “core”, in perhaps, a new way. Not that one way is wrong or right, but because I train athletes to have the ability to decide on a given day the way you will address the body in motion, choosing to work with or against your ingrained muscle memory.

Think of the core as the core of an apple that runs throughout the entire fruit. In your body, this would mean you had core running from head to toe. Everything in the body would relate to the core and have awareness.

Here are 5 basic exercises to identify some overlooked muscles needed to stabilize your structure and allow you to access smaller powerful muscles in the body. Remember that tight muscles are often weak.

It is first important to touch upon ideal alignment: Everybody is unique and has different curves, imbalances, strengths, and weaknesses. Understanding anatomical neutral as a guide to where your body’s home base is and can work towards is crucial to know where you are in space, how to set up, and how to correct any exercise ensuring that you train correct movement patterns for your functional and specificity training.

Stand tall, weight even in the soles of both feet, toes pointing straight ahead. Align your forehead over the sternum, sternum over public bone. From the side: ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips (ASIS), and the hips in line with public bone.

Sitting Chin Retractions with Extension

Neck posture = deep neck flexors.

The deep neck flexors are sometimes called the “abs of your neck” strengthening these will allow for more effortless placement of the head in standing postures as well as in chest lift positions. We often stretch our tight necks, which is good, but we need to strengthen.

Supine Arm Raises

Breathing ribs/scapula glide = lower traps, serratus anterior.

Your rib cage starts at your sternum and is a cage or cylinder that encompasses your trunk. It is important to focus on the back ribs and not just the front part where the ribs replicate wearing a vest. In Pilates, we emphasize lateral breath to bring more air into the lower lobes of the lungs. We also emphasize the bottom back ribs to the mat if lying supine. Breath and movement in the intercostal muscles between the ribs will allow for many benefits including better scapular stability and glide when the arms are in motion.

Prone Back Extensions

Pelvic placement/neck posture = upper back extensors.

Our neck and lower back to too much extension, and not always the good kind. When you have an overactive area of the body, it is important to train the opposing muscles. Training the upper back extensors and triceps will relax the misused neck and counter the computer slump we all seem to struggle with. This has been a magic exercise for me over the years.

Prone Bent Knee Hip Extensions

Pelvis placement = hip extensors.

The position of the pelvis will dictate how your hip joint sits around the thigh bone as well as the placement of the lumbar vertebrae. Its placement will therefore dictate the muscles accessed in the hips, gluteus, and abdominals. When doing prone exercises, think of supporting the lower back with the abdominals, as well as gently moving the pubic bone toward the mat to avoid excessive lumbar extension.

Standing Foot Calf Raises

Ankle alignment = adductors, peroneals.

Our feet are so neglected! We have over 100 bones and 28 muscles in each foot, and I notice that most of us talk about the feet like a body part with a brain of its own. Our most functional movement of walking begins from the feet. Proper mechanics will absorb shock and relieve the joints of the knees, hips, and back. Any athlete will have enhanced performance with strongly aligned feet and better balance. Shown here is an anti-sprained ankle exercise among setting up for a stronger core from the bottom up. Think of the inner ankle bones moving towards each other. Keep the weight in between the first and second toes.

If you would like to learn more about how Pilates can help you stabilize your whole body, give us a call now or contact Physio Logic Pilates by filling out the form below.

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