Muscle Sport Magazine

Muscles of the Core (Pt. 2 of 3)

The pelvic floor: The pelvic floor sits like a cradle inside the bony pelvis. These muscles support pelvic organs, promote waste continence, aid in sexual function, act as lymphatic pumps, and stabilize connecting joints. The pelvic floor works in conjunction with the diaphragm to regulate breathing and stabilize joints. During an inhale, the diaphragm pushes down, putting pressure on the abdominal wall. The pelvic floor accepts this pressure and descends slightly due to its elasticity. During an exhale, the pelvic floor recoils and the diaphragm ascends.

The diaphragm: The diaphragm is an umbrella-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs, below the sternum. Music teachers stress the importance of the diaphragm because it helps regulate proper breathing patterns. The diaphragm has to activate before the abdominal wall during regular breathing as well as various movement patterns. Mix this up, and the diaphragm cannot descend properly, which decreases spinal stability. Intra-abdominal pressure is created when you activate your diaphragm, pelvic floor, and abdominal wall together. This is often referred to as bracing during exercise. This keeps your spine and pelvis aligned during planks and push-ups, and protects your spine during deadlifts and squats.

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Practice: Diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal wall and also works as a great stress reliever. Here’s how to do it.

  • Lie on your back on a mat or bed with a pillow supporting your knees and head. Place the left hand on your chest near your clavicle and the right hand below your sternum where your diaphragm is located.
  • Breathe in through your nose starting your breath at your diaphragm. Fill your belly with air so that the right hand is moving upward. The left hand should remain completely still.
  • Exhale through your mouth, and, while keeping your abdominal muscles tight, pull your belly button toward the spine so that the abdominals fall inward and the right hand lowers. The left hand should remain still.
  • Practice this for 10 belly breaths in and out.

Multifidus: The multifidus is a series of superficial and deep muscles attached to the spine that keeps it straight and stable. These muscles activate before back extension and rotation to protect the spine from injury.

Transverse Abdominis: The transverse abdominis (TA) is a stabilizing muscle group deep in the abdominal wall. Rather than moving the body like the rectus abdominis and obliques, the TA compresses and supports the abdominal cavity and spine like a corset. The TA is a postural muscle group, so it should be trained differently than the movers. This is likely the most overlooked muscle group in the core, and often the rectus abdominis is far stronger than the TA.

It’s important to start all postural exercises by activating the TA. This is easier said than done, so here is a good activation exercise to perform. This will teach you how to activate your TA prior to exercises that require spinal stabilization like planks, push-ups, bicycle, pull-ups, etc.


Abdominal Draw-In


1. Lie face-up with a pillow supporting the head. Bend the knees, placing feet flat on the floor.
2. Place a rolled up towel or tennis ball between the knees.
3. Slightly roll the hips up to bring your low back toward the floor and align the pubic bone with the pelvis. Squeeze the towel between the knees and draw the abdominals in so that the navel pulls back toward the spine. Do this without moving the chest or crunching the rectus abdominis.
4. Perform each rep for five seconds, but do not hold your breath.
5. Repeat for five repetitions in three sets.


Rectus Abdominis: These long, flat muscles extend vertically along the length of the abdomen and are what is known as the six-pack. These muscles flex the torso and spine by pulling the rib cage closer together. Crunches work the rectus abdominis, but too many crunches and not enough deep core activation can lead to a weak TA.

External and Internal Obliques: These broad, superficial muscles lie on the lateral sides of the abdomen outside of the rectus abdominis. When contracted, these muscles perform several different movements including lateral flexion and trunk rotation. Internal obliques are positioned between the external obliques and the TA. When acting together, both sides flex the vertebral column, bringing the pubis toward the breastbone. Separately, when they contract it brings the vertebral column to the side or rotates it.



Photo by AJ JAWA Photo 



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