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Biomechanic Insight

To Core or not Core?

Tanya Thompson, 24th May 2021

To Core or not Core? That is the question.

Let’s establish that we are talking about: Transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, multifidus, psoas and diaphragm.

If I think of what we were taught 25 years ago compared to what we have available to us today, we can safely say that things are progressing and people are definitely becoming smarter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Vintage, but only in my home, my clothes, my hair and yes, my make-up. But not in my work. So before we delve into the core, let’s think about where we are today with our knowledge and our thoughts.

We know that it takes all kinds of different people to make up this world. Some are very opinionated, some are uninformed opinionated and others know that they don’t know and they are ready to learn. Personally, I am attracted to the people who are educated but inspiring. I am attracted to the people who do not make you feel stupid for not knowing something rather than the people who are ready to pounce on you for a difference of opinion. The archaic frame of mind in an ever-evolving world is detrimental to our career, our health and our growth. We have a lot more at our disposal. Let’s look at Pilates, founded by Joseph Pilates who was born in 1883… Yes 1883. We can look at other past innovators from the 1800’s and see how their original innovations have evolved.

  • Alessandro Volta who invented the battery
  • John Walker who invented matches
  • Charles Wheatstone who invented the microphone
  • W. A Burt who invented the typewriter
  • Barthelemy Thimonnier who invented the sewing machine… and the list goes on and on

Just by looking at the above, do you think it is safe to say that all of the above has evolved into new methods or possibly an imaginable extension of the original version?

Is the body any different? Is our thought process archaic? I do believe that each of these inventors are known as inventors for a reason…. THEY INVENT… so if they were alive today, do you not think that they would still be INVENTING… they are innovators, they are engineers and just because of this, their very make-up it to progress and to grow.

Ok, so back to the core. It was super popular, and maybe it is even more popular now to the public. I remember learning that the core could just about fix anything. It could fix my back, my performance, my balance, my pain, my everything. But now, I am wiser, and cleverer. I know that this is a tiny drop in the vast ocean of what really makes a difference. You can contract your core in any position; slouched, arched, flexed, extended, rotated, hip flexed, lateral tilt… you name it. If you think of what causes discomfort in many clients i.e. positioning, isometric postural deviations, low muscle tone, lack of awareness and lack of functional mobility then where does the core come into this equation?

If you have a big belly and you draw it closer to your torso, and narrow your waist, then yes, your back will feel better as the pressure is not longer further away from the body. But in essence, it is the change of that constant isometric postural state that reaps the greatest rewards. And in change, we mean prolonged change. The core does not change that position. The only two muscles in the core that could change a pelvic or spinal position is the multifidus and the psoas. The rest are creating intra-abdominal pressure, working during breath and protecting your vital organs. If you want a flat tummy, then sure, go for the Transverse. It will do that corset effect for you. Some research suggests that the activation of the Transverse Abdominus does do a marginal compression of the lumbar vertebra which will bring that gentle support to your spine. But what if that client does not need that compression because they are already ‘compressed’. Some spines and spinal injuries do not like a constant, intense core contraction. In fact, some spines feel better without it. *shock and horror*

The core definitely does give you that feeling of additional power especially when performing high load, speeded movements i.e. Muay Thai, kick boxing, sprinting. It will not count against you at all. But you have to allow the torso room to expand. You have to be able to release as much as you contract.

Some people require less core due to hyperactivity of their pelvic floor. In fact, these individuals need to stay away from abdominal training until the hypertrophic pelvic floor is under control (which is a whole different process).

It is all about balance. The core is there to work and to release when needs be. It is there to provide a sense of focus, make us look better in our jeans or tight dresses and it is there to offer marginal relief to a larger abdomen. But it is not the be-all and end-all of everything. There is just too much information out there that adds an incredible amount of value to how you will approach your clients recovery or training.

In fact, the emphasis of the core is addressed in our Functional Anatomy and Biomechanics course as well as our Online Pilates Mat Course.

Do not discard the CORE but do not rate it as your top 2 things to focus on!

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