Sunday, 28 February 2010

'Core' Blimey.....


Gym Ninja has designed an 'at home' core workout. Yep yep-she got her new cheapo 'size of a pea' stability (Swiss) ball and workout mat and got her reference books together and designed a programme that works her obliques, abs, erector spinae muscles...the whole shebang!

But first, allow Gym Ninja to educate those who are unaware, as to the many many layers that the 'core' exists of.....

*Go get your cup of tea/coffee/Maxi-Milk and get comfy*

So...your core is what would be left if someone ripped your head, arms and legs off.
Following so far?

It's made up of 3 layers (like the more expensive boxes of chocolates you may have received in the past that manage to cover up your abs in a nice hefty layer of blubber)..

1. Deep Muscle Layer
The Position Sense Muscles...

Movement of the spine and extremities can be split into two types of movements...Physiological and Accessory.
Physiological Movements are large motions of the body like picking stuff up off the floor/bending/lifting etc.
Accessory Movements occur within a joint: in the case of the core, this would be at each vertebral segment.  Each vertebral segment will bend, slide, shear or rotate on top of each other, and to control these accessory motions are small position sense muscles that cross from one vertebral segment to another..namely Rotatores, Intertransversarii and Interspinalis.   THIS is your deep muscle layer of the core.

2. Middle Muscle Layer
Inner Unit

Ok so you may have heard of this next layer. It consists of the Transversus Abdominis (TVA), Internal Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus, Diaphragm (yes really), and Pelvic Floor (who knew?). They work together to contract and create a non-compressible cylinder where the spine is stabilised. if this layer is 'faulty or weak' it can increase the chances of lower back dysfunction. Be told!

3. The Outer Muscle Layer
Outer Unit

I bet you reckon you know what this layer is eh? Huh? What's that? Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques and Erector Spinae? Yep, correct. But missed some of the outer final layer out. Yep you did! You also need to add to this list the Latissimus Dorsi (yes really!), the Gluteals (bum!) and Adductors (inner thighs).  Think of them as forming a muscular sling, like bandaging something up to support it.

These are the 3 layers of the core and your Personal Trainer (whoever he or she is) that you may hire to put together a programme for you, should be aware of, and train them all where possible.

You need to begin at the beginning  (duh) and progressively train the core muscles. Start on the floor and work the abs from many directions, targeting each area Don't forget to work your back too! Remember it forms part of the 3 layers! Just because you can't see it in the mirror doesn't mean it's not there. It forms part of the cylinder remember.  Once you have mastered the floor exercises, then make things harder. Train on an unstable surface, be it a wobble board, a Swiss Stability Ball, a BOSU Ball (half a ball!)...makes the core work even harder to stabilise itself.  Then.... get up! Stand up and work 'functionally' on your feet with cable wood chops etc in all three planes of movement.  This can progress over weeks so no need to rush. Mix and match if you wish? Just remember to seek medical advice if pregnant, or if you have a disk herniation,prolapse or bulge, or facet join syndrome.

Eyes all wide now? Did you think the human body was really as straight forward as a one layer Box of Dairy Milk?  See? Every day's a school day. Always learning!


Gym Ninja does hope that her little Ninjarettes are aware that working the core does not necessarily equal the treasure at the end of the rainbow (ie a 6 pack). Nope. You need to work the core, and indeed working it will help work the muscles in the same way that training yoru arms and legs work those muscles. But, if you have a nice thick layer of fat covering it over, then how will you see them? Look at it this way if you cannot visualise what GN means....

If you lie in bed and have a duvet over your body, you cannot really see much other than your head poking out at the top.
This is how abs covered in fat look. You know something is under the duvet (fat) but you cannot tell what.

 If you lie in bed and cover your body with a cotton sheet, well it drapes over the outline of your body and anyone looking at you will be able to see where your torso, arms and legs are underneath the sheet.
This is how abs look when covered with a thin layer of abdominal fat. You can see the underlying structure.

So, maybe some of you are rather lazy and think if you just diet off the fat then you get the 6 pack, right?


That sheet has to fall onto something in order to outline it. If you have no muscle under the fat then you see nothing.

Now GN is off to work her core.  Go do the same ;-)

Gym Ninja