The Core: It’s not just about sexy abs

The Core: It’s not just about sexy abs

The Core:  It’s not just about sexy abs:

Basically your “core” is all of the muscles that surround your organs in your abdomen. The abdominal muscles (the front) are the ones most associated with “the core”, but your diaphragm (the top), pelvic floor (the bottom), and some muscles in your back (the back) are also included. Although a strong core is usually associated with sports, maintaining a strong and balanced core is incredibly important to daily living and function. It is necessary in even the most mundane functions such as rolling over in bed, getting up off of the toilet and simply walking.

What makes up the core? Let’s start with the abdominal muscles. There is rectus abdominis. This muscle is in the front of your abdomen and runs from the ribs to the sternum and xiphoid process (the little nub of cartilage at the bottom of your sternum).  When it is developed, it will give the look of the desired “six pack”.  Then there are the internal and external obliques. They wrap from the lumbodorsal fascia (in the back/side of your body), iliac crest and inguinal ligament to the linea alba (fibrous tissue that runs down the midline of the abdomen), pectin pubis, and ribs. These muscles aid in rotational movements. You can’t twist without these guys. They are also important in gait patterns. That means they play a major role in the cross pattern your arms and legs make when you walk and run.  The cross pattern is when your right arm is forward your left leg is forward and then it switches. When developed, it is the external obliques that form that sexy “V” that the ladies love on a well-toned man (You know what I’m talkin about). Last but certainly not least is the transverse abdominis. This may be one of the most important abdominal muscles in lumbar (low back) stability. The TA is deep to or underneath the muscles previously mentioned. It is said to be like our own internal corset. It extends from the ribs, sternum, linea alba, and xiphoid process down to the pubic bone, inguinal ligaments, and iliac crest (“hip bones”: the ones that stick out in the front not your actual hip joint) and wraps around to the thoracolumbar fascia in the back of our body.

If your core was a cylinder the top would be your diaphragm and the bottom would be the pelvic floor.  If you have ever had soft tissue work done on your diaphragm, you know it can get pretty brutal. In my line of work, the diaphragm often plays a role in compensations and faulty movement patterns. People tend to hold their breath in order to perform motions that are above and beyond their body’s ability at that time. In doing this, you can development “adhesions” or “knots” in your diaphragm.  This is why ujjayi (a specific type of breathing) is important during yoga asana. In my chiropractic office, I would do a series of muscle tests in order to figure this out.

The pelvic floor is extremely important to pelvic stability especially postnatally. The pelvic floor is made up of levator ani, coccygeus and the connective tissue or fascia that lines the floor of the pelvis. Atrophy or damage to this area can lead to incontinence, organ prolapsed, SI joint dysfunction, low back pain and problems with the coccyx and hip joints. Avoidance of these issues is a very good reason to do yoga or pilates pre and postnatally.

Some back muscles involved with “the core” include multifidus and the erector spinae. The multifidus are small muscles that attach from vertebra to vertebra all the way up your back. They stabilize the joints at each level.  The erector spinae are also muscles that line the spine. Like the multifidus, they are not just one muscle they are a series of muscles that overlap and line the spine. These muscles are in charge of extension or back bending.  These muscles can become hypertrophied if proper alignment is not restored. There can also be imbalance from one side to the other. This is often the case in people with scoliosis. One side is found to be hypertrophied (increased muscle size) while the other is atrophied (decreased muscle size).  A combination of yoga and chiropractic can help maintain and restore balance.

Though not everyone agrees with me, I consider the iliopsoas (hip flexors) to be part of the core. One reason is because of its location. Iliacus and psoas join together under the inguinal ligament to form iliopsoas. The psoas is an interesting muscle that travels from the spine through the body to the front, where is goes under the inguinal ligament, joins up with iliacus, and attaches on to the femur (thigh) bone. The other reason is its importance in lumbopelvic stability. Its primary function is hip flexion and is important in many day to day actions. It is one I often find is inhibited (not firing correctly or weak during muscle testing for lack of a better word) and therefore something else has to over compensate.  This overcompensation can be a source of pain or area of increased muscle knotting.

Yoga and Pilates are great ways to begin working on your core. If you are injured or become injured chiropractic care can also be a tool to getting yourself back to being able to do the things you need and love to do. It is likely other areas of the body could be compensating or overworking due to a weak or poorly functioning core.

For more information, please contact APRC at: or 973-467-9011