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Whether you’ve just had a baby, surgery, an injury that has kept you from exercise, or you have never exercised your core and want to: this is a very simple way to get started, the right way. The Core is a trendy term for the deep muscles that stabilize your spine and pelvis to allow your arms and legs to perform with good strength and control. These are the pelvic floor, transversus abdominals, multifidus and the diaphragm.
These four muscles must work together as a functional unit to provide good stability and allow the larger, more global muscles to avoid overuse and injury. The most important thing about getting the core to function better and improve in strength is that you are recruiting these muscles correctly. These 6 exercises with pictures should help you to understand the correct way to perform this. It is important that if you have any pain, symptoms like leaking urine or stool, Abdominal wall separation after baby, or constipation you should see a Physical Therapist trained in pelvic floor to help you rehab. These exercises alone will not likely solve these types of symptoms.
Number 1: The Pelvic Brace
The pelvic brace is the foundation of all core exercises, so mastering this one is essential.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Inhale, allowing the abdomen to blow up like a beach ball, expanding the ribcage, but not allowing the chest to rise. On Exhale, contract the pelvic floor, transverse abdominals, and feel the multifidus fire (a tension in the low back). Repeat this for 10 reps.
Number 2: Focus on the Pelvic Floor
We have awaken the Core, now we are going to focus on the pelvic floor, knowing that the other three muscles are working alongside. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat. Contract the pelvic floor and Hold 10 seconds, then rest 10 seconds remembering to breathe. If you can extend your breathe to 10 seconds, coordinate the contraction with exhale and relax on inhale. The second set for this one is to perform faster pelvic floor contractions, so contract, then relax 10 times.
Number 3: Leg raises
This is a continuance of the pelvic brace. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat. Find your pelvic brace with exhale and hold, raising one leg up so it reaches a 90 degree angle with the trunk and slowly lower back to the floor. Monitor pelvic movement with one hand on the pelvic bone and upper abdominals with one hand on the bottom or the ribs. You do not want to see your abdominal wall “pooch” out or be over working for this motion.
Repeat 10 reps each leg.
Number 4: Bridge
Now we really put this all together. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Find your pelvic brace with exhale, and raise your buttocks off the floor. Hold 10 seconds, rest 10 seconds and repeat 10 reps.
Number 5 : Birddog
Begin on hands and knees. Find your pelvic brace with exhale. Raise your right arm straight out so it is in line with your trunk. Do not allow your body to shift weight to one hip or the other. The goal here is to keep the spine flat so that a bucket of water would not tip over. Note to keep your spine in a neutral position, not too arched, not sagging down. Repeat 10 reps with each arm.
Number 6: Birddog, Take 2
On hands and knees, find your pelvic brace with exhale. Keep a neutral spine, that bucket of water sitting nicely on your low back. Raise your right leg out behind you, in line with the trunk. Do not shift your weight to the other hip, work to maintain equal weight between the three limbs that are supporting you. Repeat 10 each leg.