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Why Core is Key

Do you currently suffer or have you ever suffered from any of the following: Lower back pain, frequent hamstring injuries, a twisted knee or a pulled shoulder?

Have you ever considered that it may not be just the fact that you slipped and twisted something or your back simply 'goes'? It could be you need to strengthen your core?

Core training is a buzzword in the fitness industry that's been around for a while now. The measure of its popularity can be seen in the increased use of stability balls or Swiss in gyms, books, classes & videos and the fact that big name clothing stores are even selling stability balls alongside underwear and belts!

But in order to train something correctly we must understand exactly what it is we are training. Your core is a group of muscles that help with pretty much every movement your body makes. In physiological terms, the core includes the abdominal musculature (transversus abdominis; rectus abdominis; internal & external obliques), hip flexor & pelvic floor muscles and the spinal musculature - predominantly your lower back muscles (lumbar erectors).

Your core is key because:

1) It is the link between your upper and lower body

2) It protects your spine

3) It stabilises your body in any movement

4) It has a major influence on your posture

Because your core consists of several different muscle groups, there is no single exercise - like crunches on a stability ball - that can possibly train all the muscles in your core at once. In order to train your core muscles you need to follow a specific core training programme that strengthens and stretches the right muscles to provide optimum balance in YOUR body.

Research has found that your TVA (Transversus Abdominis) activates fractionally before any other muscle to provide stabilisation when a movement of an extremity is made (e.g. you wave to your friend) - but if this doesn't happen, your spine is exposed and your risk of injury is greatly increased.

A simple test to determine whether your TVA fires correctly or not is this?

1) Standing up straight, place your finger in your navel

2) Then bend over to pretend you are picking something up from the floor - or actually pick something up from the floor in front of you.

What happens to your finger? Does it:

a) Stay where it is? b) Move inwards closer to your spine? c) Move out away from your spine?

Email me at with your answer and I'll let you know what should happen and what to do if it doesn't!

Lea Woodward is a fully qualified personal trainer and runs activOne in the UK to provide health & fitness services to clients. Check out the site for all your health & fitness needs.


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