Not Your Average "Core"

"Core" is one of the most overused words in the fitness industry. Find out what it really means to have a strong, balanced core.
 
What do you think of when you hear the word “core?” Immediately most of us think of the general “center” of the body between the pelvis and the lower ribs. When we work out to strengthen our core we focus mostly on the abs, the glutes and the low back muscles believing that the harder we work on them the more protected from injury we’ll be. So why are so many people in pain despite putting in so much work to strengthen their core?

The Answer?
The quick answer is imbalance.
 
Due to injury, one sided sports, or generally bad habits the typical human being has one shoulder sitting lower, or one hip higher, or one knee and foot pointing out more than another. From the side view the pelvis often changes position and tilts forward, tucks under, or rotates, and the shoulder girdle follows suit.
 
Attempting to strengthen the stomach, glute or back muscles while in this lopsided position often only strengthens the imbalance. Furthermore, adding more stress to a joint that’s already overworked due to bad posture can lead to pain and/or injury. Therefore, if you’re out of alignment the very exercises you’re doing to prevent injury could be temporarily adding to the problem!
 
Our Design
Getting back into alignment means restoring musculoskeletal balance where your shoulders and hips are level, and knees and feet are pointing straight ahead. If you were to look at yourself from the side your head and shoulders should sit directly above your hips, connected by a spine with the natural “S” curve. A balanced body means all the muscles are working together and under equal tension to stabilize the pelvis and spine. This is true “core strength.” In this condition strength equals balance because the muscles are as strong as they need to be to run, jump, play soccer or lift a weight while distributing stress and force equally throughout your body so that any one joint isn’t put under more demand than it can take.
 
The “New” Core
In the end the “core” really should be defined and referred to as any muscle responsible for keeping you upright and stable in all planes of motion… In other words, your postural muscles! If those muscles are not balanced, no matter how many sit-ups or back extensions you do, too much stress will be put on one side or one part of your spine and pain or injury will likely follow.
 
Balance Restoration
Do the following exercises to rebalance your body and then focus on strengthening your body in all planes of motion with varied exercises. 
 
These particular exercises will address the rotation and muscular imbalance in your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Do these exercises from start to finish in the order listed.
 
1.  Standing Windmill
 
  
Stand with your heels, butt, shoulders and head against a wall with feet hip width apart and pointing straight ahead. Keep your arms and back of your hands on the wall straight out from your shoulders. Keeping your arms straight and thighs tight, flex your trunk to one side as far as you can go. Keep your heels down and your hips still. Only your upper body should move! Go the other direction and continue going back and forth 5x keeping your hips, shoulders and head on the wall the whole time. Separate your legs wider than hip width and repeat for the 2nd position. Repeat with legs spread wide apart for the 3rd position. Repeat with your legs in the first position hip width apart.
 
2.  Hip Crossover Stretch
 
   
Lie on your back with your knees bent and palms down straight out from your shoulders. Cross your right ankle over the left knee and drop that knee to the floor until the outside of the left knee and the bottom of the right foot are touching the floor. Push the right knee out away from you until you feel a slight stretch in the outside of your right hip. Hold for 1-2 minutes and then repeat on the other side.
 
3.  Core Abs
 
  
Go on your stomach with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands shoulder width apart. Lift your hips off the ground until they’re level with your shoulders. Collapse or bring your shoulder blades together keeping your hips up and your thighs tight. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.

Side:
 

Lie on your side with your elbow under your shoulder and your feet stacked on top of one another. Lift your hips up until your hip and knee are off the ground. Only your outer foot and elbow should be touching the ground. Your hips and trunk should be perpendicular to the floor. Hold 30 seconds to a minute; then switch sides.
 
4.  Cats and Dogs
 
  
Go on your hands and knees with your knees directly under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keeping your elbows straight let your back sway and look up while bringing your shoulder blades together. Next round your back up toward the ceiling and let your head drop. This is similar to the cat/cow in yoga.
 
5.  Airbench
 

Stand against a wall with your hips and shoulders touching the wall. Walk your feet out and slide down the wall until you’re at a 90 degree angle at your knees. Walk your feet out far enough so your knees don’t go past your ankles or feet! Press your lower back into the wall until it’s flat. There should be no space between your low back and the wall! Keep the weight on your heels rather than your toes; hold for 2 minutes.
 

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