How to engage your core! What does that even mean?
Have you ever heard a trainer or group exercise instructor say “engage your core” or “tighten your abs”? Some might cue you to pull your navel to your spine. These are all ways to remind you to tighten your abdominal muscles while performing certain exercises so you can reap the most benefit from the moves as well as reduce your risk of injury. But how do you do it? What does it even mean?
First, a quick look at what makes up your abdominal muscles (abs) which are a big part of your core. Everyone has four layers of abs. The deepest layer is called the transversus abdominis (TVA). The TVA wraps around your waist to connect the ribcage to the pelvis. On top of the TVA are the internal and external obliques which criss-cross your torso. Last but not least, the top layer is your rectus abdominis which are the muscles that form that often discussed six-pack. When all four of these ab muscles are braced together, working with the muscles that line your spine, you have what is called an engaged core. Keep in mind, your core also includes your glute muscles and adductor muscles in your hips along with your lower back and abs.
Why do you want to engage your core? Engaging your core during your workout helps reduce the risk of injury, especially injuries of the lower back. For example, think about completing shoulder presses. As your shoulders get tired you may start arching your lower back which puts a dangerous strain on your spine and the muscles around it. By zipping up your abs and squeezing your glutes, your spine is more protected and you can move your shoulders through a safer range of motion.
Practice engaging your core while doing my fast ab circuit!
Also, engaging your core when performing abdominal exercises especially, ensures your abs are doing the work instead of recruiting other muscles to take over. This will make those moves more effective. Since your core is the basis of almost every movement we make in our day to day lives, it is important to keep it strong.
So how do you engage your core? Your abs should be tight and pulling in but you should be able to breathe and move normally. It is NOT sucking in your stomach and holding your breath. You can practice engaging your core at any time by feeling your ribs expand to the sides while you inhale, then as you exhale contract and zip up your abs, thinking about pulling your navel up and in toward your spine. Keep breathing normally while you continue to hold your abs in.
Keeping your core engaged properly while exercising will help keep your core strong and reduce your risk of injury not only while working out, but also in your day to day activities.
Look for more great core exercises? Check out our ab workouts database!
Topics: LivRite News