Learn how to activate core abdominal muscles correctly in this Physical Therapist guided exercise DVD.
Knowing how to correctly activate deep abdominal core muscles and how to do safe core abdominal exercises are often common concerns for women, particularly those women with pelvic floor prolapse problems.
In this core exercise video Michelle guides you through some simple steps for how to activate core abdominal muscles. She also demonstrates a series of pelvic floor safe core training exercises to help you improve your core control and core abdominal strength with exercises suited to the home or gym environment.
Michelle is the presenter of Inside Out Strength, the pelvic floor safe exercise home workout for women.
Video duration: 6 minutes
We welcome your comments and questions about core exercises below the written guidelines (scroll down)
How to Activate Core Muscles
Step 1 – Posture
Good posture is essential for core activation – if your posture is slumped your core abdominal muscles won’t work as well. Sitting tall with your chest lifted, spine tall and normal inward curve in your low back is the best position for core activation.
Step 2 – Find and Feel Your Core Muscles
Your core abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk like a corset. They run from the front of your abdomen, around your waist and insert via connective tissue into your spine. Deep abdominal muscles work to assist spinal and pelvic control. Ideally these muscles should work with your pelvic floor muscles.
The best position to locate your deep abdominal muscles is just inside your pelvic bones. If you wrap your thumbs and forefingers around your waist, your fingers will rest directly above your core abdominal muscles, just inside your pelvic bones. This is the best place to feel your deep abdominal core muscles as they are the deepest of your layered abdominal muscles.
It can be challenging to feel the gentle tension created when your core muscles are correctly activated. Ideally you should feel a gentle tension or tightness under your fingers with correct core activation. You shouldn’t feel a strong abdominal in draw – core muscles are postural muscles that should be gently active all the time, just like the postural muscles holding up your head.
Step 3 – Activate Your Core
Gently draw in your lower abdominal wall towards your spine – this is slow and controlled activation. Try to slightly draw in the area of your abdomen that sits beneath your briefs. Remember this is a very subtle and gentle contraction; it should not be too strong or forceful. Try to breathe normally during all exercises for the core.
Commence with up to 10 second deep abdominal muscle holds. Progress the duration of your holds as your core control improves with practice.
Step 4 – Arm Movements to Challenge Core Training Exercises
Progress your seated core exercise ball exercises by combining your core activation with:
- Keeping the ball as still as possible while you move your arms
- Keeping your feet close together
- Reaching out slowly with both arms
- Alternating arm reaching in front of your body
- Reaching both arms overhead
- Raising alternate arms slowly overhead
- Progressively reducing your base of support; supporting your body weight through your heels rather than through flat feet.
Step 5 – Leg Movements to Further Challenge Core Activation
Further progress the challenge to your core muscles by combining these leg movements with seated core activation:
- Keeping your exercise ball as still as possible while you alternate leg movements
- Extend one leg and touch your heel to the ground in front of your body
- Raise one foot slightly off the ground at a time
- Raising one leg and extending that leg in front of your body
- Progressively decreasing your upper body hand support on the ball; supporting with all fingers in contact with the ball, to two fingers, and then no hands when you are confident in your balance and core control.
Mistakes to Avoid During Core Training Exercises
Try to avoid these common mistakes during core training exercises:
- Slumped posture
- Over bracing all abdominal muscles
- Breath holding
- Doing intense exercises for the core before understanding correct activation
- Performing intense core exercises with pelvic floor problems
Key Points from How to Activate Core Muscles
- Deep abdominal core muscle activation is gentle not strong
- Appropriate posture is an essential element for successful core training exercises
- Take the time to find your lower abdominal muscles
- Use your fingers to feel correct lower abdominal exercises
- Appropriate core activation involves gentle maintained deep abdominal contractions
- Commence your core exercises gradually with:
– Longer abdominal muscle holds
– Arm movements sitting on and exercise ball
– Reducing your base of support sitting on an exercise ball
– Leg movements sitting on an exercise ball
– Reducing upper body support with leg movements.
How to activate core muscles has been designed to help women with correct understanding of appropriate core activation techniques. All too often women are uncertain about correct core activation and pelvic floor safe core training exercises. This video information aims to assist women to have a better understanding of how to activate their core muscles for pelvic floor safe core stability and strength exercises.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support, along with Dr Judith Goh Urogynaecologist. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.