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  • Lexi Schoonover

The Core & all its Parts

When you think of the core what comes to mind?

For most of you it's probably the 6 pack muscles, maybe you think about the obliques, MAYBE a few of you think about the spine but that's about it. The fitness world has made the core all about the 6 pack for the most part, but in functional training of the core is much more than this 1 little muscle.

The core is essentially all of the many layers of muscle and fascia that protect our abdominal region below the rib cage. These muscles are there to stabilize the spine, to create a pressure system, to help protect all of our other working parts from the outside world and to help transmit forces from the limbs through the body.

When it comes to the main job of the core- protecting the spine- we have to dive pretty deep to really get an idea of what makes up this amazing group of muscles. Our vertebrae are stabilized by 2 groups of muscles, the transversarii and the erector spinae muscles. Each of these groups of muscles can be further divided into the individual muscles that connect at and around the vertebrae to stabilize motion. To further stabilize the spine we have an intricate fascial system in place to anchor muscles, provide support and decelerate forces running through the spine.

Then we have obviously the core, but so much more than just that rectus abdominis (those 6 pack muscles). The core consists of the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, the muscles of the pelvic floor and finally the diaphragm. All of these muscles in combination with the spinal supporters are what truly make up the core.

This composition of muscles are our intrinsic stabilization subsystem (ISS); a group of muscles and fascia utilized in combination by our body to do as the name suggests- stabilize. When these muscles and fascia are all working well together they don't produce a lot of force but they contract to creature a pressure system to cushion our spine, they stabilize the joints of the pelvis and they help keep us standing tall.

A healthy ISS does a few key things, contracts before any limb motion, contracts equally on both sides and can work with other major system during higher intensity activities. Unfortunately, this subsystem is often under active because of lifestyle or injury history and when under active things are not working as well together.

Now the good news; you can fix it! Core training specific to getting the transverse abdominis engaging well will bring all of the other muscles back to working well together. Now, this training can be tricky and must be done tailored to each person's abilities and limitations but restoring this system will help reduce back pain and damage as well as create a more stable body globally.

Brookbush, B. (n.d.). Intrinsic stabilization Subsystem (ISS). Retrieved March 11, 2021, from

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