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In order to begin to understand our core we must first understand the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex and the relationship between our appendages and any form of movement that is created by moving our arms and legs during a movement. We also need to take note that our core is only fully engaged when we are stimulated from the ground up as wells from the the top down. What does this all mean?
To start our Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip complex is comprised of the lower Lumbar vertebrae L1-L5 and Pelvis. We also need to know that there is a direct relation between proper alignment in their ability to be in sync for optimal joint function also known as atrhrokinematics. There are also soft tissues included in the core that are most directly connected such as Psoas, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Adductors, Piriformis, Glutes, Erector Spinae, Transverse abdominals, Rectus Abdominis, Internal and External obliques. Wow! That doesn’t even name them all. We can go further in depth with another lesson. When these soft tissues are not able to move properly due to either pattern overload (doing the same thing over and over example:sitting) or overloading certain muscles without engaging others during exercise, like squatting or running without proper hip extension, can not only lead to imbalances and pain but it can cause you to lose strength by decreasing your ability to activate certain muscles due to the imbalance. Over time this can begin to affect the skeletal and connective tissue. Such as degeneration of the knees, spine, shoulders and cartilage etc. etc.
The simplest way to “feel” we are working core is to get on the ground, on our backs and do some sort of crunch or lifting of the torso to tighten the rectus abdominals. We start using this naturally as infants to get up, then turn over, stand up and walk, run and play. Instinctively we begin using our midsection to properly stabilize the rest of our flailing limbs in space in order to keep our head from leading our bodies into a coffee table like a wrecking ball! This is in fact core activation in it’s beginnings. It is dynamic, reactive and in our earliest stage an athletic feat! By doing crunches on the floor we work primarily rectus abdominis and limit our activation of all other abdominal parts which creates an imbalance in the body which typically results in a deep curvature in the lower spine and compression of the lower vertebrae and ultimately an anterior pelvic tilt.
When most of us work we sit. When we drive we sit. When we relax we sit. This position can create what is called and Anterior Pelvic Tilt which affects about 75 % of the population since that is about the number of people that work while seated. It looks like this.
The muscles, most closely associated to creating this postural deviation are the Psoas, connected at the top of the femur and the lower lumbar vertebrae, quadriceps and hamstrings.
TIP: If you currently stretch and the hamstring stretch is your “go to” ease up on that, when you are seated the hamstring is already elongated, work on the front side to realign the pelvis and improve your hip extension. Such as a quadriceps stretch.
HOW to avoid imbalance and Anertior Pelvic Tilt.
1.Stretch the Psoas – Standing Hip Flexor Stretch, SMR Psoas are a few exercises you can do
2.Stretch the quadriceps more than you do the hamstrings if you aren’t already. SMR on Quadriceps
3.Decrease the amount of “core” ‘ab” movements done laying on your back on a hard flat surface. It will strengthen the muscles which can cause the body to continue to strengthen the deviation.
4.Use core movements while standing on your feet, Kettle bell swings, Squats, Medicine ball chop to name a few. There are so many others.
Anterior pelvic tilt looks like this
Not so sexy now is it! No wonder it looks like people have a pudge even with all those crunches.
What can I expect to see as far as improvement?
By improving or neutralizing the position of your pelvis you can increase core activation as will as hip extension which you use during running, squatting, jumping and walking as well as many many others.
How will it help me in the long run?
Neutralizing the pelvis will improve its synchronization with the lower lumbar which means you will be able to react optimally to any activity you partake in because your lumbar must react to every movement your body performs all day everyday for the rest of your life.
If you were still a baby and I said to you “Hey you, stop trying to get up. Stay on the floor. If you wanna get strong just do some crunches!” You would probably tell me to go kick rocks then you would get up and proceed to run around like you really wanted to! It is our most natural state and how our body functions. Our core is activated on our feet against all forces, not on the floor still only pretending we are going to get up. Get up already!