What so bad about contracting the core?
So often when you are looking for solutions of how to strengthen your back, core strengthening comes up. Over the years there has been a lot of focus on the pelvic floor for ladies and a muscle called transverse abdominus (TVA). The focus to strengthen this area is often through specific, targeted exercises isolating the core muscles. It is great to be able to perform these exercises and fabulous when you realise that your strength is improving and you can do exercises that you couldn’t do before. But are these exercises geared up to how you use your body everyday? How often do you find yourself in the position that you do your core strengthening exercises in?
Life is dynamic and our bodies have to be too so that we can easily and effortlessly go about everyday activities. As a result we need our bodies to be able to move and perform a full range of movements whilst supporting us and keeping us pain and injury free. This means our muscles need to be responsive to movement.
How often have you heard:
“Pull your belly button towards your spine!”
“Contract your stomach muscles!”
“Contract and hold your pelvic floor!”
Have you ever thought about what is happening inside your body whilst you do this. Or taken time to reflect and listen to how your body feels whilst you do those movements. You may have been tempted already but hold off experimenting just for a moment. Tempting isn’t it 🙂
The body has chambers that need to move:
When I say the word ‘diaphragm’ where would you point on your body? I’m guessing around your lower ribs. You actually have 3 diaphragms.
- At the top of your rib cage inline with the top of your torso.
- The well known one under our lungs at the bottom of your ribcage.
- At the base of your pelvis.
They are all important and have other functions too. For the purposes of this article though think about what is in between each of these diaphragms.
In your rib cage you have you heart and lungs, whilst your abdomen contains all of your internal organs.
When you contract or ‘suck in’ your stomach and pelvic floor where do you think they all go and fit? At the back you have your spine, which is pretty unyielding. However at the front you have a lovely pliable, moveable stomach/belly. The problem comes from societies call to “Hold your stomach in”. The ambrosia of the flat toned stomach is everywhere. That only compounds our habit of sucking our stomach in. Not only does this squidge our internal organs together, The poor lil guys having to continue working in cramped conditions. Added to the fact that we breath an average of 20,000 times every day, it can have quite an impact on our health and bodily functions.
How to strengthen your back properly:
Coming back to how to strengthen your back. Historically (and it is still advised) we were taught to contract everything but that can be harmful to your back and restrict your movement.
Here are two fantastic videos by Eric Franklin that highlight this perfectly. He demonstrates why contracting your core is bad. Not only that, he takes your through some everyday movements e.g. bending from side to side and how different it feels when you do this contracting your core and whilst breathing correctly. Please take the time to watch both of these videos and do the movements under his guidance. You will immediately feel the improvement and this will highlight the benefit of no longer always holding your core. These simple exercises demonstrate that when you breath correctly, your body will support you and you will be improving your strength at the same time all day, everyday. Far better and more beneficial I hope you agree.
If this has got you intrigued by the Franklin Method and the range of books and products that can help you become more in tune with your body and relieve pain and tension, check out the full range on the Sittingwell site.