I’m going to say something a little controversial here: it’s not a good idea to strengthen your core. When you work on specifically strengthening your “core,” the tendency is to emphasize musculature that is already involved in habitual gripping and holding as you compensate for misalignments of the body. It reinforces habits of compensating with force, and this creates obstacles to flexibility and stability. And far from relieving pain, it can also lead to chronic pain.
Exercise is great – don’t get me wrong! Generally increasing the amount of movement you do is even better than exercising. (That’s probably another controversial statement!) How you go about moving is very important, too.
“Core” is something that just happens. Well, it doesn’t just happen. It happens when the body is organized efficiently. Efficient organization of the body comes not from tightening, which pulls you inward due to habitual muscle contraction, but from lengthening and expanding outward. When we lengthen and expand outward, muscles lengthen in eccentric (lengthening) contractions that contribute to allover strength and dynamic postural tone.
Dynamic postural tone means you can move and change positions easily. Tightening muscles do not help with this, but lengthening muscles do. Dynamic postural tone means you are less likely to fall, because you can adapt more quickly and easily to changes. Dynamic postural tone means all of your muscles are working together appropriately and distributing the work appropriately, without tightening in specific places. Dynamic postural tone means that muscles that you can’t even feel or control voluntarily (like your diaphragm and your postural support muscles) can work as they’re meant to. Tightening in your core takes the job away from your actual postural support muscles. Tightening in specific places leads to excess effort as you compensate to hold yourself upright or in whatever position you are using for whatever you are doing. Tightening in specific places can lead to chronic tightening in places you didn’t mean to tighten and chronic pain.
How do get “core” to just happen? By allowing your body to open from top to bottom and across. “Allowing” is different from “making.” How do you allow? First, by becoming aware of the unconscious patterns of tension and tightening that are pulling you inward. This isn’t so easy because our habits feel normal to us. But it is possible to discover habits that are pulling you out of alignment and forcing you to work harder. And it’s possible to learn to sustain a new way of using your body with practice “directing” your body outward.
I’m starting a new class called Elasticity At Any Age on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings because I want to share how to have more elasticity, stability, balance and strength without working against yourself by tightening your core. In this class we’ll be exploring how to move and feel better with lengthening, elastic muscles working together throughout our whole body. You don’t need to strengthen your core. Lengthening and widening your core is infinitely more useful for standing, sitting, moving, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, balancing and using force. You’ll find the link to sign up below. Come discover how you can make core happen!
Thursdays in June 6:00 – 7:00 pm US MDT
Saturdays in June 10:00 – 11:00 am US MDT
Sign up at https://my-site-109208-104020.square.site/
Wishing you flexibility and stability,
DiscoverEase in Movement