Last week was spent with as many Personal Trainers as "ordinary" folk. Not that anybody is ever ordinary! It has been insightful to work with each of them, not just because of their understanding of how their own body works but for what application and immediacy they can bring to the slightest adjustment. 

Also, without exception they have all had incredibly high pain-thresholds!

In addition to these inspirational aspects, I have found that I am able to share knowledge and technique which has (again) given me huge satisfaction and a big smile. A good example is from last week's Stretch Classes which were focussed on "deep core" and how to understand and engage different areas. Everybody has been to a Pilates session in their time and / or done at least 100 crunches in a single workout aiming for the coveted 6-pack aka the "ripples of attractive" (due to the rise of images on every social network of lifted shirts and barely-there bikinis.) The pleasure (I say that loosely) of this session is that once the inner-core is properly identified and warmed (you get to try this in a minute) every single position, physical element and posture is centred around precision and isolated engagement of the deeper abdominals.

The inner core is made up of the following muscles: Transverse Abdominus (TA) is innermost and is responsible for "pulling-in" the  internal organs and creating "flatness." It sits behind the Rectus Abdominus (RA) which gives the "6-pack" definition. To the sides of RA are the External Obliques which are used most during twisting and side bends. On the inside of the spine is Erector Spinae which is the "posture" muscle and usually engaged whilst awake. Add in Quatratus Lumboreum, Multifidus, Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor muscles and there you have it....Inner Core.

So, if you have a job that is sitting down, or a lower-back tightness, if you carry small children or heavy weights during your daily tasks, then trying the following short exercise will allow you to identify what you need to "switch-on" in order to limit doing damage to yourself.

Find a comfortable place on the floor, rest your head on a block or book to allow the spine / neck to be neutral (not touching the back of your neck). Bend your knees, place your feet hip distance apart on the floor. Relax the back of your pelvis into the floor. Allow your shoulders to flatten and take a breath in through your nose and fill your stomach. Let the breath travel in and out along the length of your spine, slowly and without holding it. Do this for a few more breaths.

On your next inhale "set the abdominals" by pulling the navel towards the spine. On the exhale lift your right foot 1-2cm off of the floor. Keep the contraction while you breathe in and out. On the next breath in, squeeze the abs tighter again and exhaling very gently lower the foot to the floor. Release the pelvis softly back into the floor. Take a breath in and on the exhale lift the left foot this time 1-2cm from the floor. Carefully repeat taking care not to "undo" the contraction at any point. The warmness you will feel in your stomach is your inner core muscles generating heat as they "fire-up."

If this feels comfortable, (not-too strenuous) the progression is as follows: breath in, set the abdominals, exhale slowly whilst "squeezing " the right knee to the ceiling, keep "squeezing" until the knee can go no further, take the arms and hug the knee into the stomach using bicep strength. Take a breath in and out. Re-set the abdominals and let-go of the arms around the shin. The knee will "bounce-up" a little bit but try and maintain a deep, inner contraction to keep the knee pointed towards the ceiling....and then using ONLY the abdominals lower the right foot back to the floor. And breath! Relax the pelvis softly into the floor. Repeat on left side.

There you have it! Flat abs are coming your way. Not only that but every position that requires legs or torso to be lifted will benefit (see gallery below). And please, feel free to get in touch for any information about anything you have read or would like to know more about. If you live close to Brighton follow the studio on Facebook and / or Twitter (links at bottom of page) for updates as to when the next "deep core" session is taking place : )

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