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Core Exercises: The Why, What and How To

Did you know that every exercise is a core exercise?

Over the last few installments, we have been discussing the core muscles of our bodies.  Since the dawn of exercise, core workouts have been a big part of what we are told for aesthetics to helping with back pain.

Let's look at two things commonly prescribed and used core exercises can do to our back and aesthetics.

The chart below highlights two exercises, crunches and supermans.  Both are commonly prescribed exercises for the core and back.  As you can see by the chart both are pretty high for excessive pressure on the spine.

The images below show what can commonly happen when we do 'crunch' type exercises. If you look to where the arrows point, the abdominal area is not getting smaller or flattening.  (Which we are told will happen.) Rather, it is pushing out.  This pushing out is your abdominal contents, like your intestines, being pushed up into your abdominal wall.  This is caused by the excessive pressure in the abdomen caused by the crunch exercise. (In extreme cases, it starts to push through the abdominal wall. A conversation for another time.)

Every exercise you do when done optimally and efficiently is a core exercise.  The keys to doing this are:

1. Maintain alignment of the rib cage over the pelvis.

2. Use three-dimensional breathing to stabilize the spine and core.

3. Use the right muscular effort for the exercise.

To accomplish the above, avoid:

  • holding your breath

  • pulling your abdominals in

  • lifting your chest

  • squeezing your glutes

  • pulling your shoulders back, down, or together

In the pictures below, you can see optimal and non-optimal examples of the plank, a common core exercise, and the lat pulldown, which is not commonly thought of as a core exercise.

When executed optimally, they both are an exercise for the core muscles.

The Plank

These photos show the outline of maintaining optimal core alignment where the rib cage and pelvis are stacked and lined up.

In the other photo, the model has lost or not maintained the alignment.

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