Part 2 of the "Oh My Gosh, I Have..." series will focus on the core. Why? Because, the core has everything to do with proper movement!
Dispelling the myth of the core:
Having 6 pack abs does not mean you have a strong core! People seem to equate stomach, or abdominal appearance with the core, and it's a false assumption. When I ask patients what they think the core is, most just say it's the stomach. Some say the back too, but most stop right there. Unfortunately, when well intentioned people focus on strengthening misconceptions, they miss out.
What is the core?
The core is made up specifically of the Diaphragm, Transverse abdominus, pelvic floor and spine with spinal stabilizing muscles (erector group, multifidi, etc.). The Diaphragm forms the upper limit of the core, attaching in the back to the spine, and on the sides and front to the ribs. The transverse abdominus is the internal abdominal muscle wall (NOT the 6 pack part of the abs). The pelvic floor is a nerve laden network of muscle that sits within the cup of our pelvis and is the lower limit of the core. The connection on the spine and low back forms that backside of the core. What makes a core strong is the overall connection of each component, and NOT the individual strength of the parts. These are not muscles you can pump up like a bicep, make "ripped" like the external abs, or strengthen in isolation. They are truly "one for all, and all for one" type of muscles, working and firing as a unit. The "strength " comes from all parts working together and making it complete...one...whole...intact... At that point, the core is truly engaged, and able to do its job!
What does the core do?
I'm sure the core does much more than what is important for this discussion. In particular, if you just look at what organ systems fall physically inside of the core, it stands to reason that there would be significant involvement in the processing, metabolism and voiding of all nourishment to our body, thus aiding in the conversion of food to fuel. The real purpose of the core, in the context of these articles, is to help maintain posture. Posture is the key to movement! Good posture is fundamental to good movement. It's a starting point. If you start out of balance, then movement initiation is out of balance/out of sequence. When posture is intact, the spine is aligned and freely inserting into the back of the pelvis, the pelvis is neutral, the legs coming out of the pelvis from the sides are directed under the body and the feet/heels are in alignment with the legs. With this position, the core helps tie together the spine and the pelvis, and can allow movement to flow from the legs through to the spine and upper body in an efficient and unrestricted manner. Should the posture start to fail in any way (forward head tilt, rounding of shoulders, accentuated curve of the low back, forward hip tilt, bow or knock knees, heel rotation as some examples), then muscles that would otherwise be relaxed and ready to help power our movement, will then be needed to help maintain our bodies in an upright position. This added muscle tone will serve as resistance to movement that needs to be overcome in order to get from one place to another. This is work. With extra work comes fatigue. With fatigue come bad habits. With bad habits, come bad things....