6 Week Programme: Week 4 - Core & Hips
Here is a taster of what is in store for Week 4, Tuesday 28th April, book here to join me.
When planning an exercise routine for the core, lots of people focus on the superficial core muscles - rectus abdominis and external obliques. Having a strong core is not about the aesthetics, it’s about the control and support to engage in the activities you want to achieve without strain or injury. In fact having a defined ‘6 pack’ can lead to issues such as incontinence and constipation, problems with breathing and posture.
So where should our focus be placed? On the deep core muscles - which can vary depending on who you ask, we will focus on the below:
- Transverse Abdominis - a corset like muscle which supports the pelvis and spine, our deepest abdominal layer, it helps to hold our organs in
- Multifidus - muscles which line the spine, helping to keep it stable
- Diaphragm - primary muscle used in breathing
- Pelvic Floor - muscles that support the pelvic organs, spanning the bottom of the pelvis
All four muscles work together to support a stable lumbar spine. These muscles are highly intelligent; turning on when needed without conscious thought. The transverse abdominis for example is extremely important when you cough or sneeze, holding the organs in place. However, this intelligence can be lost if we lead very sedentary lives, leading to muscle atrophy, until the muscle is so weak it can no longer perform its action. An example of this occurring in the transverse abdominis is a hernia. One of the best ways to ensure the deep core muscles are working is to maintain a neutral S curve in the spine, by holding the body in its natural upright posture instead of allowing it to slouch down in a chair or sofa.
Most core exercises can be divided into either stabilisation – holding pelvis and spine steady, or articulation – moving through the joints along the spine. Plank is a pose we regularly practice by itself or part of a sun salutation, it’s a stabilisation activity and strongly works the transverse abdominis:
- Come down onto the mat
- Place wrists under shoulders, spread fingers
- Allow shoulder blades to spread away from spine and spread collarbones away from sternum
- Press front of thighs up towards the ceiling, tailbone towards the floor, lengthen towards the heels
- Neck long, gaze down towards the floor
The hip joint bears the weight of the pelvis and provides structural stability for the whole body, while at the same time allowing us to walk, sit, jump etc. The pelvis provides the foundation for the torso and therefore alignment is essential.
The thighs are joined to the pelvis via the hip joint - which is a ball and socket joint, allowing a wide range of movement at the hip. This wide range of movement is provided by a variety of muscle groups contributing to strength and flexibility in this region. For example the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and abductors, the rotators and hip flexors all move the thigh in relation to the pelvis. The abdominal muscles support the front of the body, and help with alignment.
As many muscles contribute to the movement of the hips it is an area which can suffer if you do not have a varied exercise routine, causing stiffness and pain. We can work on opening the hips in yoga and help to reduce tension and stiffness in the muscles supporting the joint.
Standing poses are beneficial for the pelvis and hips, as they develop strength & flexibility, also when standing we bring our awareness to our posture. An excellent pose for the hips and pelvis is extended side angle pose, increasing mobility in the hip joint, strengthening the leg and pelvis muscles and stretching muscles along the side of the body:
- Stand at the top of the mat, feet hip width apart
- Take your right foot back a big stride and turn toes to face the long edge of the mat (as if preparing for Warrior 2), take a bend in the left knee so knee is over ankle
- Hips and chest face the long edge of the mat
- Lengthen through the spine and bend over to the left, resting the left forearm on left thigh (do not put any weight on the thigh)
- Lift right arm directly up towards the ceiling, or arm can come up and over to the left for a side stretch
- Do not collapse forward, chest is open, slightly tuck tailbone and draw shoulder blades in
- Press feet firmly into the ground and lengthen from right heel to right fingertips
Join me on Tuesday 29th April for the full class, book here.
Sources used to help create this blog:
Note: Please ensure you warm up before completing activities listed above; by engaging in these activities you do so at your own risk.