Core Engagement Exercise - How To Correctly Engage Your Core Muscles To Protect Your Back?

How to correctly engage your core muscles to protect your back


You Don’t Need To Pelvic Tuck!

The big problem with a lot of the core engagement training that’s done during things like pilates and yoga is that it involves the infamous ‘Pelvic Tuck’. For those of you that have been taught this, there are many admirable reasons for instructors to suggest this approach but for long term back health it is problematic to say the least.

One of the very obvious flaws is that if you’re main learning has involved this tuck, when it comes to engaging when weight bearing, we have a problem. The tuck shifts weight onto the discs, stretches ligaments and muscles on the back, putting them in a compromised position and disengages the sacroiliac joints which effectively destabilises these joints, not a good idea if we’re loading this structure!

On this page we’re going to help you better learn how to engage the core, an essential movement for back health & long term exercise effectiveness!

How To Engage Your Core

In the video here taken from Phase 1 of the Back In Shape program we go through this exercise. Teaching you how you should be engaging your core with a neutral spine! This is of vital importance. Learning to engage the core muscles independent of spinal motion is the goal and doing it without the complications of standing is an essential first step!

What Should It Feel Like When You Engage Your Core?

We often talk about the core-set of muscles. That is to say they form a corset of muscle and fibrous tissue around your midsection, not just on the front. As you engage these muscles you should feel a drawing in of your midsection from all directions towards the spine to support it ,ready for load bearing.  This is very different to the engagement of your 6 pack – the rectus abdominus muscle that runs like a strap from the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your pubic bone. This common mistake, engaging the 6 pack rather than the core-set of muscles is where people typically go wrong. If anything, the former will help you injure that low back disc as it helps flatten out the low back lordosis. 

Some Tips For Core Engagement?

There are some simple steps you can take to help you better understand the process of engaging the core muscles properly and we discuss them in the training video above. They centre around a few key concepts. 

As you breath out your diaphragm should lift up in your ribcage towards your head, as the diaphragm finishes its action your core-set of muscles will be deployed to force the last little bit of air out of your lungs, just think about blowing out the last few candles on your cake without taking another breath!

Sometimes you don’t even know you’re doing it. A lack of control over the spine means that you’re just not aware of your spinal movement. Using a small towel to support the natural lordosis can give you that extra feedback, if you’re spine moves, it will press into the towel or lift off giving you the cue that you didn’t quite do it right!

Practice Practice Practice For Core Engagement

Ultimately when it comes to re-learning to engage your core muscles it takes a degree of practice. Many people can get it right away, but others, particularly those ladies that have had C-sections, can take a little longer to refresh that mind-body connection. However one thing is for sure, the more we thoughtfully practice this controlled core engagement the better we will get at it! 

Things don’t stop there, for some of you this exercise may well feel like a rather juvenile and simplistic exercise, that’s because it is. But with it’s mastery you’ll find more complex exercises, like those you’ll progress onto in later stages of the Back In Shape Program, substantially more helpful! One of the big mistakes we see often, is the skipping of the basics onto more enjoyable exercises, trust us, if you master the basics, the rest will be so much more valuable!

Need More Help?

We’ve lots of resources in the Back In Shape program for free designed to help you as much as possible! Here’s another, slightly longer video where we talk in more detail about the core engagement & its importance later on in an exercise program.

Remember, we’ve also got the helpful “Lockdown Live’s” page with 150 30-60 minute videos on everything back & neck pain.


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