Jan 2016 02

The muscles of the core

By: Dave Wheeler

In a guest blog some time ago, Michelle Smith of the Pilates Pod wrote about how Pilates can help you to engage your core.

Time now to look in detail at what muscles make up the core.

The major muscles of the core are the transverse abdominals and the pelvic floor muscles.


The transverse abdominals

The transverse abdominals (TA’s) lie underneath the other ab muscles (such as rectus abdominus, the “six pack”)

They’re made up of a broad band of muscle which wrap the contents of the abdomen from front to back - a bit like a corset wrapping the body from the belly button round to the spine.

The TA’s extend from the top of the pelvis up, underneath the ribs (connecting to the internal surface of the lower 6 ribs).

The muscles run laterally, that is horizontally around the body.

The action of the TA is to compress the contents of the ribs and the organs inside the body; they play a major role in forced exhalation such as coughing.

The TA also play a major role as a core stabiliser by keeping the chest region in the correct relationship to the pelvis.  (Remember it connects both to the ribs and to the pelvis)

The TA’s create an equal tension down each side of the spine, and are therefore very important in keeping the spine straight.  

You can tell if your transverse abdominals are weak - if you stand with a ‘belly-out, head down’ posture then you’re likely to have weak TA’s.


The pelvic floor muscle

The pelvic floor is group of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis running from the coccyx (our ‘tailbone’) round to to the bony bit at the bottom of your bum (called the ischial tuberosity)

The pelvic floor acts like a sling supporting the weight of the organs above it.

When the pelvic floor is relaxed, the muscles hang down inside the pelvis like a parachute.

When the muscles are contracted they pull upward and inward.

The pelvic floor has several functions:

  • it  helps the diaphragm to regulate the pressure inside the abdomen
  • it provides a base of support for the ‘core’ muscles of the abdomen which support the spine and maintain posture
  • it plays a role in ‘holding in’ when you need to go to the loo


Back pain and the muscles of the core

if the muscles of the are either too weak or hypertonic (too tight) then the pelvis can be pulled out of alignment.

This means that the whole trunk of the body can be misaligned.

If the lower body is misaligned, then the spine will be out of kilter, and lower back pain is caused.

So as well as helping you look good and walk tall, keeping your core in good condition might also help out with lower back pain.