The Correct Way to Engage Your Core

The Correct Way to Engage Your Core

If you have a membership in gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, then you’ve likely heard your group class instructor say these lines:

  • Engage your abs!
  • Activate your core!
  • Or they may say things like “flex your abs” or “pull your belly towards your spine.”

What they mean is that you need to engage your core – to tighten the musculature of your core to stabilize yourself in preparation for a specific exercise.

But how exactly do you engage your core? And what is the core exactly?

A lot of people relate the “core” with “six-pack,” but it’s a lot more than that. There are 4 ab muscles that comprise your abs and then there are also back muscles that are included.

1. Rectus abdominis

This is the muscle that most people think is the core. It’s basically what shows as a six-pack. The rectus abdominis is a flat and long muscle that starts from your pubic bone up until the 6th and 7th ribs.

2. Transverse abdominis

The abdomen’s deepest layer is known as the transverse abdominis and it starts from the pelvis up to the ribs. It stabilizes the spin, protects the organs and provides support for the abdominal wall.

3. External obliques

These muscles can be found on either side of the rectus abdominis. Your external obliques will enable you to bend sideways, twist your torso, bend your spine, and tighten your abdomen.

4. Internal obliques

These muscles are situated below the external obliques and work pretty much the same way.

5. Latissimus dorsi

You probably recognize this better as “lats.” It stabilizes the back and help you twist your body from side to side. This muscle runs along the sides of the spine extending from the shoulder blades to the pelvis.

6. Erector spinae

These back muscles are found on the sides of the spine, and let you rotate and extend your back, as well as bend from side to side.

Engage Your Core – What Does It Mean?

Before we talk about how to engage the core, let’s first list examples of when you’re not doing it:

  1. Arching the back while doing push ups or shoulder presses.
  2. Slumping when sitting down.
  3. Leaning far to one side when doing shoulder press.
  4. Losing balance when doing single leg workouts.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss the right way to do it. In simple terms, you need to tighten and brace your 4 abdominal muscles, hip flexors, glutes, paraspinal muscles and lats as if tightening a single cylinder.

Engaging your core means taking a deep breath and then tighten all the muscles as if zipping up your abs extending from the navel up to the spine.

Fill your belly with air, doing a couple of inhales and exhales making sure your rib cage moves. Tighten the belly with every breath.

Importance of Engaging the Core

There are many reasons why people should engage their core. First of all it lowers the chance of injury during exercise. It creates a protective layer of muscles around the spine so you avoid over-extending or over-flexing your vertebrae.

Additionally, keeping your core engaged aids in core stability which is an essential aspect of functional movement. This helps you perform essential day to day activities and improve workout performance.

You can correct or prevent poor posture by engaging your core throughout the day. A better posture also helps in the prevention of chronic pain. You can start by bracing your core when you work at your desk or even when walking. Try to integrate it while doing day to day activities like washing the dishes or doing the groceries.

Check out this video for exercises to help keep your core engaged:

Correct core activation

Category: Featured