Tag Archives: core stability

Core muscles, how much do you really know?

English: Abdominal muscles on a woman's belly.

 Sdc13310 (2)



Edited bySteven Milner IIST

Core exercises stabilize the spine
The best core exercises may surprise you. It’s not enough to just do ab crunches and sit ups. To build a strong core you need to exercise a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders. Most people think of the core as a nice six-pack, or strong, toned abs, but the truth is that the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core. The abs have very limited and specific action, and what experts refer to as the “core” actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. When this happens, we are able to generate powerful movements of the extremities.
The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. Core conditioning exercise programs need to target all these muscle groups to be effective.

What Are the Core Muscles?
Different experts include different muscles in this list, but in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. The following list includes the most commonly identified core muscles as well as the lesser known groups.
Rectus Abdominis – located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to it’s appearance in fit and thin individuals.
Erector Spinae– This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
Multifidus – located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
External Obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen.
Internal Obliques – located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
Hip Flexors – located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas major, illiacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, sartorius
Gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hip
Gluteus maximus
hamstring group, piriformis – located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
Hip adductors – located at medial thigh.

Benefits of Good Core Strength
A Strong Core Reduces Back Pain
Abdominals get all the credit for protecting the back and being the foundation of strength, but they are only a small part of what makes up the core. In fact, it is weak and unbalanced core muscles that are linked to low back pain. Weak core muscles result in a loss of the appropriate lumbar curve and a swayback posture. Stronger, balanced core muscles help maintain appropriate posture and reduce strain on the spine.

  • A Strong Core Improves Athletic Performance
    Because the muscles of the trunk and torso stabilize the spine from the pelvis to the neck and shoulder, they allow the transfer of power to the arms and legs. All powerful movements originate from the centre of the body out, and never from the limbs alone. Before any powerful, rapid muscle contractions can occur in the extremities, the spine must be solid and stable and the more stable the core, the most powerful the extremities can contract.
  • A Strong Core Improves Postural Imbalances
    Training the muscles of the core helps correct postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. The biggest benefit of core training is to develop functional fitness; the type of fitness that is essential to daily living and regular activities.
    Exercises that Build Core Strength

    Core strengthening exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, multi joint movements are performed and stabilization of the spine is monitored. Abdominal bracing is a basic technique used during core exercise training. To correctly brace, you should attempt to pull your navel back in toward your spine. This action primarily recruits transverse abdominus. You should be able to breathe evenly while bracing and no hold your breath.
    There are many exercises that will strengthen the core. A large number of core strengthening exercises can be done at home with no equipment while some require the use of equipment and gadgets.

    What Are the Best Core Exercises?
    Core exercises are most effective when they engage many muscles throughout the torso that cross several joints and work together to coordinate stability. Core muscles need to work as a unit, contract at the same time, across joints in order to stabilize the spine. Some of the best core exercises are simple bodyweight exercises, including the following.
    Dragon Flag Advanced Core Exercise. Credited to martial arts master, Bruce Lee. the Dragon Flag, is arguably one of the more advanced bodyweight exercises you can do.
    The Quick Core Workout
    If you want a simple, effect core workout, this routine doesn’t take much time or equipment but covers all the basic core muscles.
    Plank Exercise: Start Position | Finish Position
    Side Plank Exercise: Start Position | Finish Position
    The Basic Push Up
    Push Ups
    Back Bridge
    Hip Lift
    Oblique Twist
    Plank on a Balance Ball
    Lunge with Twist

  • Equipment for a Better Core
    Other exercises that develop core strength include the use of equipment such as a stability ball, medicine balls, kettlebells, wobble boards, Yoga and Pilate’s. Some products to consider:
    Balance Products such as the Bosu Ball, balance boards, wobble boards and others

    Medicine Balls 
    Stability Balls 
    Knee Raise 

    Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Contraction of the abdominal muscles associated with movement of the lower limb. Physical Therapy, February 1997
    Hodges PW, Richardson CA. Relationship between limb movement speed and associated contraction of the trunk muscles. Ergonomics. November, 1997


Core Workout Exercises Are Misunderstood All Over The World.



Core workout exercises are misunderstood all over the world.
Many people think that core workout exercisesonly help in developing six-pack abs. However, outward appearances are a small part of the effectiveness of core and balance workouts. The core actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, running through the entire length of the torso, front and back. A strong base founded on effective balance and strong core musculature prepares you for powerful and explosive movement during exercise.

Core exercises improve your balance and stability.
Core workouts are easily compromised by the idea that the rest of your workout will cover most of your core requirements, it won’t. The core is known as the power house of the system as this is where most of our movement is generated. A strong core also protects the lower back from unnecessary injury and allows a person to work efficiently and safely. It also improves balance and stability as most core exercises are based on balance engaging the core.

Core exercises can help tone your abs.
Typically core exercises tone the mid section as they basically provide a workout that isolates these groups of muscles. Core workouts tighten the packs of muscles in the abdominal area and visually give an appearance of overall weight loss. And these exercises can be done everyday unlike other weight training exercises. You can choose from 2- 3 different exercises and you will require about 5 minutes of your time to get fit and strong in the mid section. Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities: The limbs are intricately connected to the core complex and movements are very much dependant on core fitness. A strong core can help you work faster, harder and longer.

Exercise Technique.
If you can, execute the workout in front on a mirror to allow you to make corrections to your posture. The most important factor is to activate the abdominal muscle during execution .This can be done by coughing once and holding the contraction that happens when you cough. Square the hips and shoulders to engage the PC muscles of the pelvic floor.

Core exercises don’t require specialized equipment or a gym membership.
We can do core and balance workouts in the comfort of our own homes at almost any time of the day, and it doesn’t need to to take up too much time. You won’t need lots of fancy equipment to work on strengthening the core either, for some however, performing core workouts at the gym sets the right mood. If you’re a beginner you should take care to workout under the guidance of the professional trainer, especially if you want to try some of the more advanced techniques early on in your exercise regime. Some core workouts require alignment and balance that can only be achieved with sustained effort and repetition.

Let’s look at three core strength exercises you can do at home.

Super man: Lie face down on the floor with your arms stretched full out in front with your thumbs just touching. Raise the right arm and left leg off the floor until you feel a stretch, hold for 3 seconds and relax. Alternate with the other arm and leg and repeat for 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. When it starts to get easier try HARDER you’ll know what I mean.

Plank: Lie face down, with forearms and toes on the floor slowly start to take the strain and raise your pelvis from the floor and straighten your torso. Set your eyes on the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Relax to the start position and then repeat 5 times

Supine bridge: Lie flat on your back on a mat or the floor with eyes set on the ceiling. Position your feet flat on the floor at about hip width and somewhere beneath your knees and hands just outside your ankles and alongside of your body. Now push your hips up till you have a straight line right from your knees to shoulders. Maintain a straight line posture as long as you can feel the muscle tension.

If it’s a flat tummy you most desire then check out my post on the Transverse Abdominals

Working the Transverse Abdominals

transverse abdominalsWorking the Transverse Abdominals


Ladies, ever wonder why you never seem to get that flat stomach when you’re relaxed?  No matter how effectively you work your abs typically you will be working them in just one direction, up and down, or, more properly along the length of the rectus abdominus. But what about the abdominals that go from side to side? Can we exercise those?  Well, yes you can, the transverse abdominals (TA) flatten the tummy from side to side, so read on because I’ve got some information to share with you about working your Transverse Abdominals.
The TA complex belong to a group of core muscles that lie below the rectus abdominus and are often neglected in standard ab routines. Typically most abdominal exercises target the vertical rectus abdominus largely ignoring the horizontal transverse abdominals. Even crunches, the staple of most abdominal workouts, do nothing for the transverse abdominals. This group of muscles connect to both the lower back and the rectus abdominus to form a powerful support for the entire abdomen. Any routine aimed at flattening the stomach should include the transverse abdominals as a focus. Using the following exercises, you can target your transverse abdominals and really make progress towards that flat tummy.

Transverse Abdominal Crunch
Lie face up on a mat and plant your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart, maintain contact between the mat and the small of your back. With the fingers of both hands find the tips of your hip bones on either side of your tummy. Move your fingers inwards slightly towards your centre line just off the hip bone, don’t worry your hip bones are easy to find even if you’re carrying a lot of fat. Now this is an easy exercise to master once you know how to “feel” the transverse muscle working, here’s how, press down slightly with your fingers and cough! You will feel the transverse abdominal wall tighten and jump beneath your fingers. To use the exercise, first cough to initiate the contraction and then hold for a count of ten and relax, repeat for sets.

Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back on a flat surface, such as a mat or a bench. Roll a towel to cushion the small of your back. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise your pelvis off the floor,  hold momentarily, and lower under control. Repeat for sets. Maintaining a controlled movement is crucial to this exercise, use your abdominal muscles not your body’s momentum to do the work. Be sure to keep your upper body on the floor throughout to target the transverse complex.

Crunchless Crunch
This exercise is fairly simple but can be difficult to master. In a nutshell we’re going to try to pull our belly button in towards our spine, this involves muscles which you may not be accustomed to working, it can take time to make the mind muscle connection. Start by either lying on your stomach or supporting yourself on hands and knees. You might want to try both ways and see which helps you feel the exercise better. Relax your body as much as possible; use only the lower abdominals to try to move your belly button toward your spine. Hold for ten seconds. If holding for ten seconds feels easy, hold for a longer period. You should aim to hold the contraction until you either cannot feel it anymore, or you feel other muscles working harder than the transverse abdominus. When you feel this, release the contraction and relax.

Scissor Kicks
Again start by lying on a mat or bench, place your hands under your backside and try to keep the small of your back pressed down. Start by slowly raising one leg to a height of about ten inches, then slowly lower it back to the floor, as your lower one leg, raise the other. Repeat this movement for reps and sets. Keep disciplined, focus, don’t let momentum rob you. Your upper body should remain on the floor through the entire move.

Transverse abdominals aren’t show muscles but if you want a flatter tummy vitalising these muscles will take you a lot closer to your goals. Exercises like these are key to any tummy flattening plan, and they are especially good for pregnant and postnatal women.

I wrote this post originally for my bodybuilding blog but it applies equally well to both men and women who want to feel better in their clothes and themselves.

Sports Massage

Sports Massage

By Steven Milner IIST VTCT Qualified

Welcome to my Sports and Fitness Therapies site, home of personal training and sports massage therapy in Manchester. Are you suffering from back pain, muscle injury or stress? Sports and remedial massage therapy is not just for sports people. It helps many people who’ve never played sports! Whether you’re a marathon runner or an office worker, sports massage relieves pain, facilitates movement and encourages relaxation. Just What is a Sports Massage


A Quick Overview
Since 3000BC in China it has been documented that massage efficiently encourages the healing of body, mind and spirit. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and all major civilizations have recognised the benefits of massage.
In the 21st century we can use massage more than ever. Statisticians tell us stress is increasingly taking its toll on us and our relationships, families and businesses. In response massage is seeing an appropriate and natural surge in popularity. It’s making sense to NHS hospitals, companies like the BBC, Virgin, Apple and countless corporate hospitality suites and individuals.

What Happens During Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a type of massage that stimulates circulation of blood and lymph fluids. Some sports massage movements use trigger point therapy to break down adhesions or knots in the muscles and increase range of motion. During your first appointment a brief consultation takes place to discuss your current health and relevant medical history. Your treatment will take into account the connections between lifestyle, mind and body. During an effective massage blood flushes through the capillaries and cleanses the body of toxins. Nutrients then flood the freshly massaged areas, strengthening the immune system. Muscle tissue becomes softer and able to function more efficiently. Body fat is broken up leaving the skin smoother and firmer. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated and serotonin & endorphins are released, our natural ‘feel good’ & strong painkilling chemicals. Our aches and pains are eased and we feel calm, relaxed and at peace. All the bad stuff is flushed out and all the good stuff flushed in.

Sports Massage
Many people assume sports massage is just for sports people, it’s not. Sports massage is for anyone who needs a deep massage that really affects the muscles in a positive way. It’s invaluable to athletes who benefit from pre and post event work, relaxing or invigorating the muscles in preparation for a competition, then afterwards flushing them out, helping the sore muscles detoxify, realign and heal in preparation for the next progression in the athlete’s calendar. Sports massage is ideal for those who don’t play sports but perhaps work in an office environment, sitting in the same position for long periods, or carrying out repetitive tasks inevitably lead to aches and stiffness.

Science anyone?
Sports massage is extremely effective for loosening tight muscles and refreshing aching limbs. Sports massage is a no-nonsense therapy that deals directly with the body’s soft tissue. It has developed over the years to deal with the specific conditions that the human body experiences before and after being ‘pushed to the max’. It utilises such techniques as MET (muscle energy technique), Soft Tissue Release and NMT (neuromuscular technique). When injury to muscle tissue occurs the muscle fibres will often misalign themselves whilst healing. Our muscles are covered by a layer connective tissue called fascia. This fascia covers all the individual muscle fibres, the larger bundles of muscles, and the whole muscle groups. It is one continuous piece of tissue that never stops growing and covers our whole body. Normally, when covering healthy, moving muscle it is a soft, gel like substance. However, when our muscle movement is restricted (such as in the case of injury or postural misalignment), tissue fluids cannot reach the areas they need to in order to lubricate the fascia. The fascia hardens and scar tissue forms, further trapping toxins and waste materials, such as lactic acid. This causes pain and dysfunction as the body tries to remedy the situation by setting up a series of structural compensations – leading to further pain and more problems. Sports massage is often combined with remedial massage, which uses the same techniques, to assist the healing and rehabilitation of injuries and dysfunction and to facilitate movement. In this way a sports and remedial massage becomes just as relevant to an office worker, crippled by an unsuitable desk arrangement as it is to an Olympic athlete suffering a torn hamstring!

When Should I Get A Sports Massage?
A sports massage is a good choice if you have a specific problem, a tender knee from running, for instance. It is also be a good idea to see a movement therapist, who can help you identify and correct the movement pattern that might be causing your injury in the first place. As a sports therapist and personal trainer I generally focus in on the problem area, a frozen shoulder or pulled hamstring for example, rather than giving you a full-body massage. No matter what type of massage you choose, I will discuss with you fully any treatment we may feel relevant and make choices together regarding your needs and expectations.

From an Athletes perspective:
Sports massage helps athletes prepare their bodies for optimal performance, recover after a big event, or function well during training. Sports massage emphasizes prevention and healing of injuries to the muscles and tendons.

The four main advantages of sports massage for athletes:
*Pre-event sports massage, a short, stimulating massage 15 – 45 minutes before the event. It is directed toward the parts of the body that will be involved in the exertion.
*Post-event sports massage, given within an hour or two of the event, to normalize the body’s tissues.
*Restorative sports massage, given during training to allow the athelete to train harder and with less injury.
*Rehabilitative sports massage, aimed at alleviating pain due to injury and returning the body to health.

But you don’t have to be in the Olympics to benefit from sports massage. Sports massage is also good for people with injuries, chronic pain or restricted range of motion. The massage therapist generally concentrates on a specific problem area. This is the type of sports massage that you see in the clinic.

Benefits of Massage
Massage provides an excellent and highly effective treatment for stress. It has been proven to help treat the following:

Muscular aches and pains
Digestive disorders
Bad circulation
Fatty tissue deposits
Build up of waste products within the body
Deficit of natural feel good and pain-killing chemicals

After treatment you will feel deeply calm and refreshed. You will feel a heightened sense of ‘body awareness’ which can help you feel how much tension is being carried in your body. This can initiate a journey in modifying your own physical and emotional responses to stress.

Remedial Massage
Remedial massage is a massage technique that provides a remedy to muscular dysfunction. It separates scar tissue and realigns muscle tissue, with an aim to restore the body to a pain free, balanced state. It uses such techniques as Soft Tissue Release (STR) Neuromuscular Technique (NMT) and Muscle Energy Technique (MET). Sometimes Remedial massage can be a little uncomfortable, but only in a way that you will instinctively know is beneficial. I’ll never take you beyond your limit and all my clients are encouraged to communicate freely and sometimes loudly even. I strongly encourage body awareness and self-treatment, by teaching stretching techniques that can be used outside of clinic time and focusing on investigating, and if necessary changing habits that are causing muscular distress, we can maximise the effect of the treatment, making it more worthwhile for your body and more cost effective for your wallet.

Remedial Deep Tissue Massage treatment is a massage technique that deals with the body’s soft tissue. It has developed over the years to deal with the specific conditions that the human body experiences when it has been pushed too far. It uses such techniques as MET (muscle energy technique), Soft Tissue Release and NMT (neuromuscular technique).

Deep Tissue Massage always deals directly with the muscles. The reason it is called “sports massage” is because it is a style of massage that sports people prefer. We all have our challenges whether they are physical or emotional and this style of massage can benefit anyone from any walk of life. You could be on your feet all day, an office worker sitting in the same position for long periods, or an amateur athlete, I will treat you as an individual and tailor a massage programme that suits you.

To book an appointment or talk to me about Sports Therapy or Personal Fitness e-mail me arnie4970@yahoo.co.uk