I hope everyone in the Save Our Bones community who celebrates Christmas had a delightful holiday this week! If you’re tired from all the shopping and festivities, don’t worry, because this weekend’s challenge is the perfect post-holiday exercise. In fact, you won’t even have to get out of bed to do it!
The In Bed Core Toner targets the core muscles, which are crucial for balance, posture, and stabilization of the vertebrae and pelvis.
And if you think you might not need to work these core muscles, you’ll soon know if you’re right, because in today’s post you’ll find a simple test to determine your core strength.
Let’s start with what constitutes the core muscles, and why they are crucial for bone strength and overall fitness.
Your core holds you upright whether sitting or standing, and it’s engaged with nearly every movement you make. Here are the core muscles that you’ll be working today:
- Pelvic floor muscles span the area beneath the pelvis. These muscles are sometimes called the pelvic diaphragm, and they support the uterus, intestines, and bladder.
- The transversus abdominis (TVA) lies along the front and side of the abdominal wall, underneath the obliques (which we will discuss next). They arise from the iliac crest (the top of the hip bones), attaching to the last six ribs and the middle line of the abdomen. The TVA is nicknamed the “corset muscle” because it helps pull and hold the abdomen in, so it is essential to work these muscles if you want to eliminate a tummy “pooch.”
The internal and external obliques “sandwich” the TVA muscles, with the internal lying beneath and the external lying on top. The internal obliques work against the diaphragm to compress the abdomen during exhalation, and are therefore important for deep breathing. The internal obliques also rotate and bend the trunk sideways by pulling on the rib cage.
The external obliques work with the internal obliques to facilitate trunk rotation and abdominal compression during exhalation. The external obliques also contribute to the flexion and rotation of the vertebrae.
- The erector spinae is a bundle of tendons and nerves that lie deep in the torso, right against the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical vertebrae. They attach at the sacral vertebrae by means of a thick tendon, and are very important for spinal alignment and stability.
- The gluteus maximus is sometimes considered a “minor” core muscle, but its role in posture, balance, and core strengthening is invaluable. The “glutes” make up your buttocks muscles, and they are crucial for a stable gait, aligned pelvis, and femoral strength and alignment.
All of the above muscles stimulate bone growth in the ribs, vertebrae, and pelvis, and of course contribute to proper posture and reliable balance. And you can do all this before you even get out of bed in the morning! Here is how.
- Sit up on your bed, placing your hands a bit behind your buttocks. Lean back slightly, supporting yourself with your hands.
- Extend one leg, and bend the knee of the other leg.
- Lift the extended leg at the hip (not the knee), and “pulse” the leg up and down in small movements. It is easy to start bending at the knee, but make sure to use the hip joint to move the leg.
- Do 10 pulses on one leg, and then switch sides for another 10 (you can do fewer or more if you like, depending on your comfort level).
Variation: Spinal Stretch And Alignment
To get a stretch of the spine and align the vertebrae, push down with your hands and arms as you pulse your leg. Your buttocks will lift a bit, and your spine will get a good stretch.
Is Your Core Weak? Take This Quick Test To Find Out
To help you evaluate your core strength, answer the following questions:
- Is your posture poor? If so, it could indicate core muscles that are stretched and/or weak, because the core helps hold your back in its proper curvature and your pelvis at the correct tilt. Poor posture indicates a pelvis that is rolled forward and vertebrae that are curved outward.
- Does your lower back hurt? Core muscles hold the sacral vertebrae in place, and allow for proper movement of the lumbar vertebrae. A curve that is too concave (“sway back”) or too convex can occur if the core muscles are weak.
- How long can you hold a plank position? If you find yourself trembling and unable to hold a steady plank for under 50 seconds, it indicates that your core needs some attention.
- How is your balance? As I mentioned above, your core muscles hold you upright. Poor balance occurs when your core is out of shape, and can’t hold your torso upright. You may not know if your balance is good or not – you can try this simple 30-second test to find out.
- Do you feel general weakness in your muscles? Maybe you’re finding that it seems harder to do things that you found easy to do before. That may mean weak core muscles, since they are involved in just about all movement, from jumping to walking up and down stairs to throwing a ball.
- How do you do on the “tummy pull” test? Try this: take a deep breath, and as you exhale, draw your tummy in toward your spine as far as you are able. Can you hold this pose for 10 seconds? If not, your core muscles may be weak (remember how the obliques work with the diaphragm to help you exhale thoroughly?).
If based on your answers you think that your core needs to get stronger, then make sure you practice exercises like the In Bed Core Toner. There are other Weekend Challenges that work the core muscles as well, such as the Dynamic Hip And Core Builder and the Core And Rib Strengthener.
The core muscles are so important that you will find plenty of exercises to strengthen them in the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System as well, such as the Chair Knee Lift and the Arm And Leg Lift.
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Enjoy the weekend!