All About The Abdominals / CORE

Core Stability Core control is the ability of specific deep muscles to brace & support the spine, & pelvis. Research has demonstrated that healthy deep abdominal & back muscles contract to “splint” the lumbar vertebrae, providing support for movement such as throwing, lifting or running. In fact, these deep muscles are required to support virtually every movement, even those that are not heavy or extreme. Without adequate stabilisation, the risk of injury rises.

For a number of years abdominal curls were recommended to help your back. Research now shows that although we were on the right track, we were focusing on the wrong muscles. The outer abdominals- such as those used in sit ups and curls, can be trained for definition, but play no role in spinal stability. The muscles responsible for supporting the lumbar spine are the deepest abdominal muscles (transverse abdominus) and the deepest back muscle(multifidus), in conjunction with other muscles such as the internal obliques. The pelvic floor works in conjunction with the deep abdominals. So any exercise that correctly strengthens the deep stabilising muscles also improves pelvic floor control & vice versa. This is of benefit to everyone, especially those prone to incontinence. Note, incorrect abdominal exercises such as sit ups, can weaken the pelvic floor.

These core muscles are hard to feel, impossible to see & do not create movement, so it can be hard to recognise them initially. With time and practise under the right guidance you will become more aware of the stabilisers and notice the difference they provide to exercise & daily life.

What is abdominal separation & Abdominal weakening?

A separated abdominals actually indicates a medical condition called diastasis recti. In layman's terms that means that the rectus abdominis muscles (aka your abs) have separated and the connective tissue that binds them has become over-stretched, thin and weak. These muscles are the support system for your back and organs so when they separate that support system is destabilised. With no muscles to hold them in place your organs shift forward and down into the stomach wall creating a “gut” or “floppy belly” that no amount of crunches will fix. Other nasty complications include chronic lower back pain, pelvic instability, a protruding belly button and greater pressure being placed on the heart. You are also at much greater risk of developing an umbilical or ventral hernia (where the connective tissue tears away from the muscle and your organs begin to push through.

So how do your abdominal muscles separate & weaken? Everyone is born with his or her outermost abdominal muscles separated. Around the age of three as the nervous system matures the muscles usually close. Even once the separation has closed it can still be reopened through consistent and prolonged activities that create force and pressure against the connective tissue that joins the muscles.

Many factors can contribute to abdominal separation & weakening:

Pregnancy; the abdominal muscles separate to make room for the growing baby, incorrect exercise & posture during pregnancy and after birth can result in abdominals remaining separated unless correct exercise is done to help close the separation.

Poor Posture;the way we sit, the way we stand and the way we carry ourselves all play a major contributing factor to the strength & tone of our abdominal muscles. A forward or slouched posture puts constant pressure on our abdominals & also inhibits the normal function of the abdominal muscles & pelvic floor on a daily basis.

Weight gain; carrying excess weight around the mid section, can cause the abdominals to separate & weaken.

Sitting at a desk; hours a day sitting at a desk with poor posture, prevents the abdominal muscles from working effectively, and also pushes the abdominal muscles out and forward, weakening them.

Incorrect abdominal crunches. Many people believe that crunches are the sure-fire way to trim abdominals. But crunches actually create intra-abdominal pressure causing the connective tissue to stretch and weaken over time. Weight gain on the weakened connective tissue then causes the “protruding gut”.

Other inappropriate exercises such as sit-ups, Pilates' 100s, yoga backbends and sports such as kickboxing, tennis and golf also place force and pressure on the connective tissue and may cause a diastasis.

Abdominal Surgery; abdominal muscles can be cut or injured abdominal surgery and as a result become weak and unconditioned.

So how do you know if you have separated or weak abdominals? A sure sign of a diastasis is a half-football like protrusion (your belly domes up) when getting up from a back-lying position. If you have defined abs with a 'gutter' running down the middle you also have a diastasis - that gutter is actually the separation of the muscles. With defined and strong abdominals it's not so much of a problem but as soon as you start to lose that definition you are likely to develop a protruding belly as your organs push forward into the stomach wall. In order to close a diastasis you need to heal the connective tissue and perform correct exercise to help close the abdominal separation & eliminate exercises, activities & postures that result in the abdominal separation remaining open or worsening.

Request information

Request Information Now!