The Core - how to flatten your stomach and end back pain.

A key theme to my clients while personal training in London (Clapham) and anyone I meet who mentions they have back pain is the core. This is a term for the sets of muscles that surround the spine and hold it in place. An efficient core will flatten your stomach by naturally pulling it tight and minimize back pain by holding the spine stable.

The core muscles relate to amongst others the deep transverse abdominal (below the main abdominal's) pelvic floor muscles (muscles that stop you going to the toilet) deep spinal muscles and the gluteus muscles (buttocks). Through ensuring these muscles are correctly working then improving their strength the body will become stronger and healthier.

Activating the core

Most my personal training clients have trouble activating the core, you must learn to do this before you can strengthen it. The problem comes because the core muscles easily become sleeping muscles through poor posture, wrong food choices, tight muscles, pain and many more factors. These factors must be addressed before the core muscles will work naturally. The first step you can take is to learn to hold a neutral spine.

Neutral spine

This refers to standing with correct posture and thus ensuring all the joints are optimally aligned. To find your neutral spine:

Stand with your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head against the wall. With one hand feel how much space there is in the arch of your lower back.
A neutral spine should have just enough room for one hand to slide into the arch of the lower back while the heels, buttocks, shoulders and head remain touching the wall. If you cannot get your hand in the arch or there is room for much more than one hand e.g. your fist. Your posture needs to be adjusted, this will come from following the correct stretches and strengthening exercises. Whenever possible try to reposition your body into the neutral spine position. This should be held for all exercises and even when not exercising e.g. when standing in a queue, sitting in the car etc.

Engaging the core

In the neutral spine position you can then activate the core muscles. To do this you need to consciously:

1. Contract the pelvic floor muscles, by stopping yourself going to the toilet at the back then the front.
2. Draw the stomach area below the belly button into the spine as closely (hard) as possible. Imagine you are trying to pull on a really tight pair of trousers and must get them over your lower stomach.

In addition to activating the core. It is also necessary to use the larger muscles of the buttock and midsection.

Core exercises

Once you can activate the core you can begin to do exercises that will flatten your stomach and reduce your back pain. Core exercises are those that stress these ,muscles by making you hold body in place with a neutral spine. An example exercise would be the plank, often seen in gym classes, see picture on my site. As with any health or fitness goal to maximise your results it shoudl always be backed up with solid nutrition. The best system for determining this metabolic typing

Ben Wilson BSc (Hons) CSCS NSCA-CPT CMTA EFT Dip
Personal training London (Clapham)
Rugby fitness training and coaching

Author's Bio: 

Ben is a personal trainer, nutritionist and EFT therapist. He is author of the book Rugby fitness training:A twelve month conditioning programme.