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"Core" Wrong Beliefs

Top 5 Things People Wrongly Believe About Their “Core”

For years now we have been fed a message that our “core” is a key part of how we get ourselves moving well and is the best thing to do to help back pain and other movement problems. Your “core” is a term that is used so much by health and fitness professionals often with extremely different meanings. Google has 250million results on “ what is my core?” and 31 million results on “training my core”.  I am going to tell you the top 5 things people we see at QuayPhysio wrongly believe about their “core” and why a better understanding is going to help you move and feel better.


1. My “core” are the deep muscles between my rib cage and pelvis.

NO! The muscles we have thought of as making up our “core” are the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus (deep tummy muscle), diaphragm and multifidus (deep back muscle). These muscles extend far beyond the pelvis and bottom of the ribcage. They actually blend with muscles that extend across each hip joint, all the way up through the rib cage to the head. SO, when we consider the muscles involved in what people call their “core” we are actually talking about a far bigger region from head to thighs.


2. I must suck my tummy in continually as this will improve my shape, posture and strengthen my “core”.

NO! Sucking your tummy in actually works muscles more in your upper tummy. This is a bad idea for several reasons.

  1. Your upper tummy muscles are not meant to be switched on continually. When you suck your tummy in all the time you are training this strategy for everything you do which is not an optimal way to move and can cause overloading in your lower back and other regions leading to pain.
  2. Overworking these muscles compresses and restricts movement in your trunk because they attach all the way up your rib cage to nipple height.
  3. Working the upper tummy all the time puts a lot of pressure down through your pelvic floor which often can’t cope with the forces it has to work against and can cause or worsen leaking if you cough / sneeze or need to go to the loo.
  4. Working the upper tummy alters the balance of muscles around your waist which often makes you look and feel pot bellied or like your tummy is bloated.


3. Planks are a good way to strengthen my “core”.

NO! What you need in order to move well and feel good in your body is good balance between the different muscles and regions of the body. Like an orchestra everything needs to be in sync and co-ordinated using the right amount at the right time for any task or sport you chose to do.

When do you ever need to switch on all the muscles in your body, really strongly, keeping totally still, against gravity and holding this pattern for minutes at a time? NEVER!!!!!! So why would you want to train your nervous system to make your muscles work in this way? You need your body and trunk to MOVE! Move in every direction in a controlled, co-ordinated way. You need your arms, legs, trunk and head to have the option of moving in different directions and be separate from one another not all move in a clump together.

You need OPTIONS with your movement not one way of doing everything. No wonder soreness occurs when you aren’t moving well because you lose the ability to vary the way you move. You compensate and it doesn’t feel good. Who honestly feels great moving and jumping around after holding a plank for 2 minutes?


4: Strengthening my “core” and my back will get rid of my back pain.

Given the points above, you can now see there are several “flaws” with this statement!

  • Why is your back sore in the first place? Understanding this is invaluable. Finding out what region(s) is causing the problem is a crucial to save you time and get you better! Hence why one to one assessment or treatment first is key. The reason your back hurts could be coming from your ribcage or neck or even your foot.
  • If you are already overworking the wrong muscles in your trunk whether that is back muscles, tummy muscles or anything else, switching them on even more is not going to give you more options for movement. It is likely to make you more restricted with movement, more pot bellied, more sore and / or have worse posture.


5: I need “core” stability exercises.

When you hear the term unstable it doesn’t sound good does it? It implies that at any time things might fall apart! If someone told me my pelvis was unstable I wouldn’t want to move it, I’d want to keep it braced and rigid. The way our spine and pelvis is connected and supported by different structures means they are inherently “stable” structures and is designed to move. In the absence of major trauma it is highly unlikely there is true “instability” in these regions. Far more likely is to have non-optimal “CONTROL” in these areas and how they co-ordinate with other areas. So instead of “stability” exercises we really need to work on control. Controlling how our spine and limbs move and dissociates from one another instead of moving as a clump or with restriction. For every movement you do you need all of you to be co-ordinated in an optimal way so lets work on movement through out the body for the best outcome.


To summarise, we don’t use the word “core” at QuayPhysio anymore! We think more holistically than that to improve how our trunk and body moves all together in a controlled, light, fluid and effortless way. How it co-ordinates the balance of muscles to perform different tasks from very simple ones like lifting your arm to pick up a cup to something more complex like throwing a ball for your dog or digging in the garden. The way our brain and nervous system co-ordinates how our body moves and what muscles it switches on and when, dictates how our movement feels. Why don’t we want to exercise more? Because it doesn’t feel good! When movement feels good we want to do it more. Good movement is all about variability and having options. When we lose options due to injury, poor postures, over use or pain we don’t move as well. Just sucking in your tummy is not going to be the answer.


If you have any questions or concerns about how you move come and speak to us. Our Physio and Clinical Pilates classes looks at why you aren’t moving well and where the problems come from so we specifically work on what your body needs to get the best results. Physiotherapy and Clinical Pilates isn’t about strengthening your “core” it is about optimal, efficient, light, co-ordinated, movement. If we work on that then pain will become a thing of the past.

For appointments or further questions call us on  01548 852355 or email info@quayphysio.co.uk or contact us from the website click here.

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