As you can imagine, I have a lot to say on this topic of the core almost as much as I have to say about your feet! I have to thank Anne from TangoSpace for her blog on The Tango Dancers Guide to Core Muscles for inspiring About your and Core and Tango!
It is true, as Anne says, that depending on who is speaking about the core there might be different definitions of what the core is or what a teacher might be referring to (I like that she includes the pelvic floor).
1) Let’s Define the Core
For the sake of this post I will use the Restorative Exercise definition of THE CORE as everything the arms and legs are attached to. So this would include musculature in the pelvis, the back, the ribs, and the shoulders, too. That’s quite a lot of territory to cover! Therefore, the understanding of the core goes way beyond just those 4 abdominals muscles that are usually referred to from deep to superficial as:
- INTERNAL OBLIQUES
- EXTERNAL OBLIQUES
- RECTUS ABDOMINUS
2) More to your Core
Because the trunk is void of solid bony structure(s), which allows for mobility between the pelvis and the ribs, the core musculature attaches in layers to something called the aponeuroses which also connect to raphe. You have 3 beautiful raphe in your body – the linea alba, and the 2 linea semilunares. So in picturing the most gorgeous six pack you can, you will see a major line down the middle of that 6 pack and 2 on the sides – these are raphe. I bring up the raphe because these collagen structures provide strong attachment points for the abdominals. The linea alba, for example, is the raphe that runs vertically down the midline of the body, roughly from the sternum to the pelvis. It connects not only to these bony structures but to all the other abdominal musculature there as well. The whole abdominal structure is a woven basket of layers of muscles, tissues, connecting to the aponeurosis and raphe. In order to work or generate force, a muscle needs something strong to attach its ends to, in terms of your abdominals, this will include your raphe.
In the case of the abdomen it is the lineae that can have a bone-like function, providing a strong point of attachment and offering resistance to a working muscle— essential for producing force.
Bowman, Katy (2015-12-29). Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation (Kindle Locations 227-229). Propriometrics Press. Kindle Edition.
And why do I have this lovely woven basket of muscles in my midsection? Oversimplified, to support the contents of it – the spine and the organs (lungs, kidneys, heart, sex organs) and to allow for mobility (to squat, to reach, to climb, to turn, to bend, to rotate, to roll).
3) So how is alignment going to affect abdominal strength?
You knew it had to come back to alignment right? The length of those raphe will affect your potential strength. If they have been lax all day they will not be effective because they are not being used or being called upon to be used.
You have heard me say in previous blogs that what you do with your ribs and your pelvis will influence your alignment. And the direction of your rib cage relative to the pelvis also dictates how tense/ taught those raphe are.
4) And those high heeled shoes
Maybe the blog should have started here! How are those shoes affecting your core musculature?
So no wonder we have so much trouble in tango with our cores! We spend the bulk of our day sitting or slouching at a desk, maybe wearing heeled shoes the bulk of the day and then we go to our tango classes and expect our cores to work for us. How can we possibly manage?
Well, I’m again not here to tell you to throw away your favorite CIFs or to get your buns to the gym but you can remember to notice your alignment throughout the day and make sure to do some Restorative Exercise calf stretches. We are big fans in Restorative Exercise to take alignment breaks throughout our day.
Take stock of how you stand and how you sit during your day. How often do your arms or legs do something other than what they have been doing the majority of your life? Ie: arms in front of you, sitting at a computer, then at the gym in front of you in the same position riding a bike. The arms in one position means that they are limited in their range of motion – which too affects your core musculature – (extend your arm over you head as if to reach for something on a high shelf – do you feel your ribs move and your mid section? hello abdominals!)
In conclusion, check out your pelvis and your ribs’ relationship and your feet throughout your day. And if you are trying to hold your stomach in hoping you are getting an abdominal workout, you are actually doing more damage to your internal organs and your spine, so remember to keep breathing. And as always,
Call or SKYPE Me to discover how to integrate your body
*Thanks again Katy for all the great books and info.