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The core muscles

The core refers to the sets of muscles that surround your stomach and hips. They are vital for true health and essential to stopping back pain, muscle aches and making your stomach flat.

The role of the core

The Core muscles are used to support the spine. The deep core muscles exert a pressure on the spine to hold it in place. The more superficial core muscles support these inner muscles as well as creating movement and stability of the mid section.

When working correctly the muscles will produce a flatter stomach, as the transverse abdominal (one of the deep core muscles) draws your stomach inwards. Developing a healthy set of core muscles will reduce if not clear your back pain. If performing any athletic event they provide extra stability which will enhance the ability to exert strength in your movement.

Ensuring the muscles are awake.

Core muscles often become what are known as sleeping muscles, this means the body has stopped using them for a variety of reasons, e.g. to prevent further pain. When this occurs you need to follow a core activation programme to wake these muscles back up.

Developing the core.

Once the core is fully functioning and you are able to activate the muscles it is necessary to strengthen and develop them to stabilize the body. The idea of the training is to increase your strength and stability way above anything encountered in daily living or life.

Core activation programme

The following basic programme should be used by everyone before starting out on a core training programme. It is a simple routine that should be performed regularly. If possible try and tag this onto the end of your daily active stretching routine. The principles of this can also be taken before each resistance training exercise.

• Deep breathing – Find your neutral spine using a wall to guide you and practice breathing using your diaphragm, do this by pushing you belly out when you inhale air. Repeat for 10 breaths.

• Pelvic floor activation – Standing with a neutral spine try contracting the pelvic floor muscles at the back then through to the front, e.g. stop your self going to the toilet at the back then the front. Repeat this wave of muscle contractions 10 times

• Stomach muscle activation (upwards) – Tense your stomach in a wave like method from the bottom to the top. e.g. draw in your stomach area below your belly button, then above your belly button before finally the very top of the abdominal's. Relax and repeat this wave of muscle tensing for 10 repetitions.

• Stomach muscle activation (Laterally) – Tense your stomach in a wave like method from the left hand side to the right hand side and back e.g. draw in your stomach muscles on the very left hand side, then the middle, then the right hand side. Relax, then repeat the contraction from right to left. Repeat 10 times.

• Core pulsing – Using a wall find your neutral spine, now breath using your diaphragm, now engage your core by contracting the pelvic floor then traverse abdominal's. Squeeze all these muscles (‘the core’) as tight as possible for five second then relax, repeat 10 times.

• Core Hold – Follow the previous to engage the core muscles, this time hold for as long as possible. Gradually build up to a minute.

This routine should not take long and needs to be performed regularly at first until the body is used to activating the core without too much effort. At this point begin a core training programme.

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