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Fixing our Foundation

core-strength-runners-1It is no secret that posture is a large part of our overall health. Your mom told you to stand up straight all through your teenage years, recent studies have found that forward head posture adds strain not only to the neck and shoulder area, but can decrease your lung capacity by as much as 30%. When posture fails, it leads to musculoskeletal aches and pains. The wonderful thing about posture is that it is never too late to begin making improvements. Even small changes can lead to big benefits in our health.

    The foundation for our posture is found in our core. Every doctor, physical therapist, and personal trainer you have spoken to in the last 10 years has told you to strengthen your core. The problem with this line of thinking is that many people have strong cores, but their cores don’t “activate” when they need them to. Core “activation” is when those muscles of your stomach and pelvic floor are taught while the muscles of your back and hip flexor are relaxed. Many exercises like; planks, crunches and cherry pickers are great at strengthening the core but not at activating them.

    Posture is simply what our muscles, joints and bones are like at rest, or when we aren’t thinking about them. Core activation can be thought of in the same way. I can have a core strong enough to support a car, but if it isn’t turned on when I go to get laundry out of the washing machine, I can still hurt my back. Core activation is a neurological process, not a concept of raw strength. Teaching our brain and core to properly communicate is far more important than having it be strong.

    There are two very simple exercises that anyone of any age can do that will help them to have a core that is more “active”.

  1. Proper Core Activation: The first exercise I call proper core activation. Many times when I ask patients to activate their core, I see them draw their belly button towards their spine. It makes them look thinner, but it doesn’t activate their core. The proper way to activate your core is to give a quick breath out like you are trying to whistle. When you activate your core in this manner you will feel  the stomach draw in, but you will also feel pressure pushing out. This is an activated core. I recommend doing 3 sets of 15 of these quick breath out proper core activations 1-2 times a day. It helps to train our brain and core to communicate.
  2. Glute Squeeze: The other simple exercise is to simply squeeze the gluteal muscles. This exercise helps to protect the back, but it also helps to fortify your postural foundation and provide not only strength but stability. I recommend starting with 3 sets of 15 glute squeezes 1-2 times a day.

Once you get the hang of the exercises, you can begin to add movement to them like activating your core while you walk across the room, or perform a squat. Squeezing your glutes while you walk or lunge. These are great ways to begin to train these muscle groups to be on not just when you think about them, but to “activate” subconsciously when needed. This makes an improvement in your posture, not just giving you strength with no purpose. We specialize in helping to examine these movements, identify the problems and putting together a plan to improve posture.

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