Our ancestors would have engaged their core muscles far more than we ever do just in their daily routines. Before hoovers or mops we had floor sweeping and scrubbing. Before washing machines we had a mangle, washboard and dolly stick. So every day tasks were core exercises in themselves.
These days we have almost everything done for us and spend a lot more time in a seated position, hunched over a desk, laptop or slouched in front of the TV.
All of these things play a role in weakening the core muscles which means we’re all less stable than our ancestors used to be! Scary thought!
Your core muscles include your abdominals, all the muscles in your hips, and the muscles that run up and down your lower back. It’s almost like a corset wrapped around your body to hold everything in place.
Some of them can’t be seen no matter how hard you train them because they are buried deep underneath other muscles to stabilize you. However, your core muscles are the most important muscles to train because they are responsible for all movements made by your body.
Most of us realise that because we lead more sedentary lives we need to remain active in order to keep our body and health in good shape.
In order to ‘engage your core’ or get ‘tight abs’, you could imagine that someone was going to prod you in the stomach. Not a pleasant analogy but it is an effective one, if only to give you an idea of what we’re going on about!
Stand up and try this. Your natural reflex would be to protect your internal organs and contract your abs or ‘tighten’ your abs so they create a firm surface to absorb the impact.
On doing this you would naturally breath out. When you breathe out and contract your stomach and back muscles in this way, you are ‘engaging your core’. It’s a conscious action and one which should include strong posture, keeping neutral spine, your shoulders down, back and relaxed, and your pelvic floor engaged.
The NHS website has a fantastic article on how to engage your pelvic floor > http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1063.aspx
You can practice strengthening your core muscles by engaging your core as you get dressed, whilst watching TV, when you’re brushing your teeth or at your desk.
If you want to see your abs more clearly then you need to become very strict with your nutrition whilst working really hard on engaging your core during your workout and in your everyday tasks.