The abdominal muscles are by far the most overworked when it comes to core strengthening exercises. We often forget the finer abdominal muscles linked to good balance and completely ignore the back and hip muscles.
Abs have become a set of vanity muscles. We all want to look great in a bathing suit and that’s fine. But I like to think of my core this way: It’s the truck from which my every moment is controlled. It’s fine that I can wear a bikini now, but nobody wears a bikini when they’re 85. At that age you’ll be thankful for a super solid base.
My physiotherapist talked to me about the smaller abdominal muscles that comprise my core. She said that with mainstream ab exercises, the tendency is for our body’s larger muscles to take over so the smaller ones never have an opportunity to develop.
The most overlooked abdominal muscle that will directly improve my running is the Puboccoccygeal (PC) muscle. My physiotherapist helped me find it. This muscle sustains your body’s pelvic floor and is located down near your hip bones. This is the muscle you activate in order to stop yourself from peeing.
HOW TO FIND AND DEVELOP YOUR PC MUSCLE
1. Sit down and place your fingers just under your hip bones.
2. Pretend to hold your pee.
3. Keep flexing and releasing while shifting your fingers around until you feel where your muscle is activating. There it is!
To develop the PC, do Kegel exercises. This means flexing the muscle for 5 seconds in 8-12 reps. You can do this anywhere, anytime. (I tend to do it on the subway.. shh.)
EXTRA CURRICULAR BENEFITS
For women, Kegel exercises help in pregnancy, childbirth, and sexual gratification. Bonus for girls.
For men, it can achieve stronger erections and greater control over ejaculation. Bonus for girls AGAIN.
Not that guys should feel left out. It has been reported that strengthening this muscle can lead to the ability to achieve an orgasm without an ejaculation, thus resulting in multiple climaxes during sex. To me that beats the hell out of a six pack.
I’m just saying… strengthen your freaking core.
BONUS CORE STRENGTHENING TIPS
There are a gazillion and one core exercises online, so I won’t give you any here. But these are some basic guidelines that helped me:
1. Don’t do crunches/sit-ups. In fact, don’t do anything that involves curving your spine. Something with a straight back will be more effective, less damaging to your spine, and actually much harder.
2. Yoga is amazing for core strengthening. A lot of guys don’t do yoga because they think it looks easy. It’s not. My hat is off to ANY guy that can make it through a complete yoga class.
3. Focus on finding and developing the following lesser-known core muscles:
- The Transverse Abdominals. These wrap around your waist like a girdle. They protect and stabilize your lower back and pelvis.
- The Erector Spinae. This group of muscles is attached to your vertebrae, ribs and pelvis. They extend and support your spine. Super important.
- The Trapezius. This muscle runs down the upper section of your spinal cord, originating at the base of your skull and running down to your lower back. It’s the muscle we activate when we shrug. My trainer told me that this is the muscle that people always miss by using the machines at the gym incorrectly.
- The Quadratus Lumborum and the Multifidus. These are deep in your lower back. They help extend and rotate the spine and are linked to good balance.
- The Gluteal Medius and Gluteal Minimus. Located directly underneath the Gluteus Maximus (the major glute muscle we all know and love). They help us move our legs away from the centre of our bodies. And really, that’s just a fancy way of saying… running.