If we had a nickel for every core workout we have seen advertised or done by patients that only consisted of plank variations, sit ups and leg lowers, we could pay someone to do our core workouts for us because we would be so rich.
Time and time again, we see people missing a huge and crucial piece of the core workouts and that is working on the mobility of our cores right alongside with strength and stability.
At Peak Rx we describe our core as needing to be like a column of water. What we mean by that is our core needs to be able to move along with us, ebbing and flowing with us as we move about our day and even as we exercise. Like most things in the body, if one link in the chain does not contribute their needed part, then the other structures surrounding it have to give in a little more to make up for the loss of movement. What we find is when fluidity is not encouraged and areas needing to be mobile are not any more, that ineffectiveness can lead to pain and imbalance. When we only train our cores to be stiff and strong (all the core workouts in the world) we are actually contributing to the problem of being too immovable. Ideally what we want is a strong but flexible core system. We dove into the top signs of an effective core in another blog post here. Do you find yourself struggling with any of those things? If so, this blog is exactly for you. What we want to cover in this blog is to show you how to mobilize each component of your core so you can know each side is contributing to their appropriate amount of movement and reinstate a column of water like core.
To see the whole picture we have to think 3 dimensionally, let’s think of it like a house. We have the roof, the floor, the front wall and the back wall. As we go through the structures we will think of it in this way so that we can don’t miss a side or a section. Contributing factors of mobility are not reserved exclusively for your muscles, structures like joints, tendons and ligaments and even our organs also play a part too so for us it’s important to address these factors when thinking about keeping a mobile core.
The top of your house or roof is made up of your diaphragm and rib cage. We need the diaphragm to expand greatly as we take a big breath in and collapse back down with exhalation. We also need the ribs and thoracic spine to move along with the diaphragm as it contracts and relaxes. Here are a couple of ways to keep your diaphragm as well as your thoracic spine mobile.
This is a great tool to help relax any restrictions you may have in your diaphragm. It can be a bit uncomfortable but it helps free up movement so you can get the full expansion of your ribs when breathing in and out.
Thoracic Wall Twist
The thoracic spine in general is going to be a rather immobile section of your spine in comparison to the rest of the spine, but it still needs to contribute the little movement it does have to off load the neck and the low back from having to compensate.
The Front Wall
The front wall is the stomach area of your abdomen, it is made up of layers of abdominal muscle and fascia. In order to keep good mobility here we need to counteract all the sitting and crutched belly positions we as humans usually do in our day to day. Keeping this tissue flexible can also help positivity affect your major organs that live in the abdomen as well.
Using a tool such as the coregeous ball can be a game changer when looking to mobilize sensitive structures in our bellies. This ball is a staple for those looking to keep their cores moving their best. You can find one here! This belly release video is a wonderful way to mobilize your abdominal wall, as well as aid in things like digestion.
This exercise will help stretch your abdomen as well as open up your hips to help counteract the hours of sitting we do everyday.
The Back Wall
The back wall is also made up of muscle and fascia but as an additional factor, your lumbar spine. When thinking about keeping the back wall mobile it’s important to consider all factors in order to keep the links of the chain moving. This area frequently becomes the braking point in the chain and where pain will manifest itself.
Child’s pose with reach
Child pose is a common stretch used after a workout, adding the side to side reach helps further its effect by stretching each side individually. This does a lot of good for the muscles that attach from the rib cage to the hips.
Low Trunk Rotations
Rotation is often viewed as a “bad” movement for your back but it’s not, it’s extremely important. We need our backs to be able to handle twisting and turning to live normal lives. This exercise helps encourage rotation from a simple position of laying on your back.
The bottom or the floor of your core is the pelvic floor, mobility here is crucial and frequently overlooked. We need it to move up and down to manage pressure in the abdomen. When this is not moving optimally, it can throw off the whole system so let’s not forget to incorporate it into our mobility routine.
While it may seem strange, the exercise is a great way to help get your pelvic floor moving. By keeping your legs straight and only use your pelvis you challenge your pelvic floor to coordinate without the help of your hamstrings.
While the pelvic floor is your bottom on the house it also needs to be able to reach into the basement. Practicing this can help keep your pelvic floor from being too rigid and forcing more range of motion at your hips or lumbar spine.
We hope that this helps shed some light on how to think about your core and what to expect from it. As you move through the exercises take an inventory and see which one feels foreign or like a movement your body does not do very often. Go back and emphasize those movements, as they are probably the links in your chain that don’t get much attention. All of these movements are good to practice regularly, because it is one thing to be mobile it’s another to stay mobile.
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