Wendy Powell

How to Engage Your Core

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We hear ‘engage your core’, or ‘do your pelvic floor exercises’ often. But how do you do know if you’re getting it right? How should it feel when you engage your core correctly?

‘Suck in your stomach’ is not how to engage your core

It’s merely shifting pressure and mass upwards or downwards. If you suck it all in hard and your waist goes narrower (it will for as long as you hold your breath anyway), all the stuff that was hanging out has gone somewhere. Upwards, pushing into your diaphragm, or downwards pushing onto your pelvic floor. Imagine a tube of toothpaste. If you squeeze in the middle… the contents of the middle of the tube haven’t disappeared, they have moved.

Sucking in your breath or holding your breath whilst pulling your stomach in hard, is not training muscles. Its shifting pressure and displacing mass.

How to engage your core

You exhale, GENTLY drawing your belly button back at the same time as gently drawing your pelvic floor upwards. Your abs are drawing gently inwards, but not pulling in hard. Both transverse abdominis and pelvic floor are part of your core, and they work together. Making an ‘Ssssss’ sound as you exhale may help you find the right deep abdominal muscles. For the pelvic floor part… imagine you’re sucking a smoothie with your vagina as the straw… or picking up a grape with your vagina… weird. But it works.

Inhale as you relax the muscles, engage again on the next exhale. So you’re working the muscles on the exhale, relaxing on the inhale.

More on finding your deep core muscles and engaging your core here

If you watch side on in a mirror, this shows as a very slight movement of the lower abs – not a big one. The spine is neutral, your chest should not thrust – so lower ribs stay back, stacked directly over ASIS (the hip bone bits that stick out at the front), stacked over the pubic bone. You don’t hold your breath. Your shoulders don’t tense and very importantly, your tailbone or backside doesn’t tuck underneath you. When you isolate your TVA muscle and engage it, you should not see movement anywhere else in your body.

You could be lying on your back, on all fours, sitting or standing, but the same indicators apply – your spine should be in neutral alignment: lower ribs over ASIS, ASIS on the same vertical plane over the pubic bone. If your butt tucks under, if you suck it all in, hold your breath, thrust, tense or hunch anything else… that’s not isolating your TVA. Correct alignment is VITAL to making this work and is explained in detail in the MUTU program.

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