One of the key principles we follow here at Bodyguards is to achieve health and fitness by working from the inside out.
This means that before you start using the arms and legs in the gym, it’s important to address your diet and lifestyle before then moving on to your core musculature. The abdominal muscles are layered one on top of each other and can be divided into either the deeper inner unit muscles or the more superficial outer unit muscles. If you have a fully functioning digestive system, then the next step would ideally be to start developing the inner unit muscles before moving outwards towards the more commonly recognised outer unit (six pack) abdominal muscles.
The inner unit consists of:
- Diaphragm (the breathing muscle)
- Pelvic Floor
- Transverse Abdominus (the corset like ‘belt muscle’
- Multifidus (the small spinal stabiliser muscles that connect every vertebrae to the next)
The inner unit is often overlooked by most average Personal Trainers because by training it you don’t always get the immediate aesthetic results that people want. Having said that, without a really well conditioned inner unit, you’ll have no chance of developing the sought after six pack that you see on athletes on the front cover of fitness magazines !
The benefits of a strong inner core unit are as follows:
- Improved, taller posture
- Better spinal alignment
- A more stable, robust and supported spine
- Protection and support for the abdominal organs (viscera) and the lumbar vertebrae
- Improved balance and control of your centre of gravity
- A flatter, slimmer looking waistline
- A solid hinge from which the limbs (i.e. arms + legs) can work
- Improved digestion
- Improved breathing pattern and cardiovascular function
- Improved core muscle definition (six pack)
The most interesting fact about the inner core unit musculature is that no matter what movement you perform, the inner unit, in particular the Transverse Abdominus, fires and contracts before any other muscle group. Or at least it should. The idea here is that before movement of the arms or legs can occur, the body must strive to stabilise the moving joints of the spine and pelvis before the limbs can generate the required force for the intended movement. That basically means that the core muscles are the most important muscles to any athlete because without them they would have minimal control of the limbs and therefore not be able to perform at a high level of skill as required by their chosen sport. Paul Chek always says "You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe" which means you can’t generate large forces without a strong core !
From a vanity point of view, without a strong inner unit you’ll be more likely to have a dreaded ‘lower belly’ or a stubborn paunch because the internal organs don’t have the support that they require and therefore ‘head south’ and drop to the bottom of the abdomen, pushing the lower belly out. Also, without a strong ‘corset’ you’ll be less likely to achieve the sought after ‘six pack’ that we all desire ! You’re probably wondering "how does diet and lifestyle affect the core then" ? Well if you’re eating the wrong stuff and experiencing too much physiological load due to excessive stress then digestion is likely to suffer. As a result, inflammation occurs which essentially switches off the core muscles and ‘bye bye six pack’ !