Core Exercises for Women
Scroll down for core exercises to:
- Strengthen your deep core abdominal muscles
- Tone and flatten the appearance of your lower abdomen
- Exercise safely and minimise your risk of pelvic floor strain
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Expert Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy exercise videos and information
What are Core Exercises?
Core exercises train the muscles surrounding the trunk or torso (core).
Core muscles include:
- Abdominal muscles
- Spinal muscles
- Pelvic floor muscles
Core exercises for women aim to safely maintain, restore and strengthen these muscles without compromising the pelvic floor.
Some intense core abdominal exercises are inappropriate for women at risk of pelvic floor problems.
Benefits of Core Abdominal Exercises for Women?
Core abdominal exercises have a number of benefits for women:
Work With Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Your innermost layer of abdominal muscles should contract at the same time as your pelvic floor muscles to help keep you dry.
Protect and Support
Your abdominal muscles protect and support your abdominal organs.
Hold You Together
Your innermost abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk and stabilize the joints in your spine and your pelvis. When your core muscles work as they should, they can even flatten the appearance of your stomach!
Deep Abdominal Core Muscles
Your abdominal muscles sit in layers over the front of your trunk below your rib cage.
The deepest innermost layer of your abdominal muscles called Transverse Abdominis. These deep abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk just like a corset covering your abdomen, wrapping around your waist and fastening at your spine.
The Transverse Abdominis muscles help support your insides as well as your pelvis and your spine. These muscles are designed to be gently active for long periods of time.
It can initially take some time to find your deep core abdominal muscles and use them correctly; they are deeply positioned and work very gently.
Outer Abdominal Core Muscles
The outer abdominal muscles are the ‘6 pack’ or Rectus Abdominis and External Oblique muscles. These muscles sit in layers above the deeper core abdominal muscles.
Intense exercises for the outer abdominal muscles can have an adverse effect on the pelvic floor. These muscles contract strongly and generate pressure in the abdomen, for example during coughing.
Imagine squeezing a plastic sauce bottle – when you squeeze the bottle you increase the downward pressure inside the bottle and the sauce is forced out.
In the same way if you squeeze in your abdomen strongly, you increase the downward pressure on your pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor is not strong enough to counteract this downward pressure it is forced downwards and pelvic floor problems can result.
Abdominal Core Exercise Guidelines
- Learn to activate your core abdominal muscles using the correct technique
- Use a gentle activation technique – never strong
- Start by contracting your deep abdominal muscles up to 10 seconds at a time
- Practice this exercise up to 10 times a day
- Perform your basic abdominal core exercises sitting, standing and then walking
Abdominal Core Exercise Mistakes
Some women try to flatten their stomach by over bracing their abdominal muscles.
Over bracing or strongly activating the core abdominal muscles increases pressure on the pelvic floor.
Women who habitually over brace their abdominal muscles often need to learn how to relax their core muscles in order to learn the correct amount of activation.