This weekend I sat in on the Pilates mat teacher training at Body Harmonics. It had been nearly 5 years since I first took my teacher training, so it was nice to get back to the basics. The biggest take away I had from this weekend was the importance of our inner core unit. In other words, your deep core muscles that are underneath your six pack abs.
There are 4 main muscles of the inner core unit, the transversus abdominis (low belly muscles), diaphragm (helps you breath), pelvic floor (helps you not to pee your pants, and protects internal organs), and the multifidus muscle (major support for your spine).
When I say these are deep muscles, I mean deeeep. They are literally buried beneath layers upon layers of muscle and tissue, making them harder to access. When you do a bicep curl for instance, you can see your bicep bulge like Popeye, it’s obvious and makes sense to the majority of people. Now I have a point here; these inner core muscles are so deep, and much more tedious to work, meaning we usually just leave them out altogether. You can’t exactly just squeeze your multifidus and see results, most of us can’t even pronounce multifidus! I’m saying, just because it’s harder to get to these little guys, don’t leave them out! Here’s why…
Remember Julia Louis-Dreyfus dancing on Seinfeld?
When we don’t have strength in our inner core muscles often our movements will appear awkward, and jerky. Like it’s tough to hoist limbs up, and move the body in rhythm. When we use the 4 inner core muscles, along with the bigger outer unit our quality of movement, posture, and coordination improves, and we stand less chance of injury.
Here are the 3 easy ways to make sure your inner core muscles are working:
1. The knee hover exercise targets transversus muscles in the low belly. Like I said, these muscles are deep and not as easy to connect to, sometimes visuals can help us get a better connection. As you lift your knees, imagine tightening a seat belt across the front of your hips. Pull in tight in the low belly, and wide across the hips.
2. Breathe. It’s so simple, but a deep 360 degree inhale into the ribcage encourages the diaphragm to work, and strengthen. The thing about the deep core muscles is they work together, when one isn’t working the rest won’t either. So to get a flatter low belly, don’t forget to breathe!
3. Rock out. Put one foot in front of the other and start to rock back and forth, shifting your weight between the front and back foot. Make sure to keep both hip bones pointing forward so your pelvis is square. If you place your hand on your low back right across the sacrum you should feel your multifidus muscle popping out at you!
I know the deep core muscles seem less gratifying, but if you just show them a little love it’ll go a long way to achieving bigger strength goals! Do you include deep core work into your workouts? What’s your favorite inner core exercise?