There’s a very simple way that I as a Therapist and Rehabilitative Pilates teacher knows if you are training your core correctly and safely, and that is just by looking if you have a ‘doming’ effect of the abdominals when doing core exercises.
It’s great to see so many people in the gym wanting to strengthen their core however doing it in an unsafe manor can lead to problems such as lower back pain and diastasis recti, as there is no ‘stability’ being provided around the spine.
Unfortunately this is why I see so many people give up on great forms of training such as Pilates, that they have been advised by a Physiotherapist to do, as they aren’t shown how to do it correctly, and it inevitably makes their symptoms worse.
However, if we can sort out the dreaded ‘abdominal doming’, core exercises will be the best way to aid back pain relief, rehab diastasis (which isn’t only in pregnant women may I add), increase stability around the lower back and pelvis and create a powerful core for lifelong pain-free exercise.
The major muscles of the core include the Pelvic Floor, the Transverse Abdominis (TrA or Trans Abs), Obliques, Lumbar Multifidus and the Diaphragm. To effectively and safely carry out core exercises, all of these major muscles must work collectively, not just focusing on contracting the ‘6 pack’ in the middle of your torso.
To aid in correct form imagine you are trying to ‘knit’ muscles together and draw the belly button in gently. This does not mean pulling the stomach in to look as skinny as possible and not being able to breathe.
Imagine you’re wearing a belt that tightens 10 holes; you want to be sat on about the 7thhole. It should feel comfortable, not like you’re about to pass out!
The best way to get good at carrying out core exercises correctly is to start basic and build up. Start by laying on your back with both feet on the floor and simply slide a foot away and see if you can maintain a flat stomach. Progress to bringing the feet off, then add in some arms etc. Only then progress onto these challenging leg raises that I see so many people do day in day out in the gym.
As ever if you are still unsure seek the help of a professional. Invest some time in mastering the basics and your future self (and back) will thank you in the long run.