Posted on April 16, 2018
Coaches are constantly talking about “engaging your core” but why is it important? And what the heck is your “core” made up of?
The middle of our body, below our ribs and above our pelvis, has less bony structure than the rest of our body. We have a spine in the back made up of vertebrae stacked on top of each other, each representing a movable joint. But in the front top and bottom? We have muscle.
The layers of abdominal muscles, described in detail in a blog post for Circus Now and in the book Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts, create stability by connecting our rib-cage to the pelvis and circling back towards the spine. When these muscles contract they compress your abdomen creating pressure against your diaphragm above and pelvic floor below.
In a GOOD CIRCUS CORE engagement, the abdominals shorten bringing ribs down, narrowing your waist, and tucking your pelvis. AND your pelvic floor muscles contract to support from below.
BUT! There are other ways to tighten these muscles. Think of a rubber band and how if you stretch it, it gets taught. Your muscles work the same way. You can tighten these muscles by lengthening them. This method (I call it “cheating”) less efficient and lead to a FLOPPY circus artist.
Arching your lower back and tipping the pelvis forward OR Flaring your ribs will lengthen the abdominals, but makes you work harder, puts you at risk of injury at your shoulder, back, or hip.
Another method uses the diaphragm to increase the pressure in your abdomen. By holding your breath and pressing /bearing down you can artificially create stiffness through the core. However, the last one is problematic for your pelvic floor. Increased abdominal pressure increases the load on your smaller pelvic floor muscles. With occasional load these muscles will be just fine, but if this is the only way you know how to contract your abs and you use them a lot (heck yeah circus stars) your pelvic floor could be at risk of weakening from the stress.
Do you hold your breath when you invert? I’m talking to you
Who needs a strong pelvic floor anyway….. umm… YOU DO. Want to keep urine inside when you laugh, jump, invert, live etc etc? (Guys, this can be an issue for you too) Also, ladies do you queef? Read Cirque du Twerk’s post to learn how your pelvic floor plays a roll in what’s going on (Seriously, I know you’ve always wanted to know this. Admit it)
You need your pelvic floor. Be nice to it. Engage your core.
Photo courtesy of Danny Boulet of WittyPixel Photography.