What is really happening when we move?
All muscles work in pairs. When a muscle is contracting, its opposite has to relax to allow the contraction. Next time we stretch our quads (the front of your thigh) – tune in to what is happening to your hamstrings. They will contract and shorten to allow the quads to stretch and lengthen. This is called reciprocal inhibition.
The deep core – a major player in lumbar pelvic stability. These muscles barely contract and consist of high-endurance slow twitch fibres. In a health body they pre-activate in anticipation of movement.
The current fitness industry drums into us “work your core”, “pull in your abs”, “tighten your tummy”. And yes, I admit to trotting out a few of those old timers too, but I won’t do this in future! Think about it – what happens to our backs if we are constantly tightening our “core”, pulling our abs, navel to spine? The muscles in our backs relax to allow the abs to contract. And who wants a relaxed back?
Furthermore, there is really no need to isolate your core. For one, it is not strong enough to support all movement, we need our limbs too. The deep core – the transverse abdominus, pelvic floor and multifidus at the back are “pre-recruiters”. If the lower back and pelvis are stable, the core anticipates movement and send signals to the brain that the body is good to go.
Metafit is a strenuous class, so yes we will “wake up” the core in warm up through balance, breathing and stability exercises. If you can feel your abs gently move on deep exhalation and you can balance reasonably well on one leg, then they are good to do their job.
Next class, try holding the toughest plank you can without “pulling in your core”. You will soon feel the tension in the abs & back muscles as they work hard to stabilise you. If you have episodes of back pain perhaps you are working your core too hard and that’s why it hurts?