by: Victoria Frosini, MS, CPT

Work With Me

She earned her Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013, where she conducted extensive research in weight loss, social support and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Why Core Activation Beats Crunches (p.s. your abs will thank us later)

This month we want to focus on the core’s importance in activities of daily life, and the role core strength and activation plays in longevity and injury prevention. The human core has three-dimensional depth, and functions in all three planes of motion. Although we typically train the most superficial muscles of the abdominals and obliques, many important muscles are hidden beneath exterior musculature.

“Core” literally translates to the anatomical structure that is the deepest and most central to the spine. These muscles are absolutely imperative to functional stabilization during static and dynamic movement.

Simply put, you can think of the core as all of the following:

  • Rectus Abdominus (“visible abs”)
  • Obliques (internal, transverse, external; sides of torso, covers lower back and ribs)
  • Erector Spinae (eight muscles that run up either side of your spine)
  • Transverse Abdominus (wide muscle that runs horizontally around the abdominal cavity; TVA creates intra-abdominal pressure)
  • Quadratus Lumborum (deep muscles in rear abdominal wall, QL if often equated with the lower back)
  • Multifidus (a series of muscles that are attached to the spinal column: superficial and deep)
  • Pelvic Floor (group of muscles working synergistically with deep abdominals, back muscles, and the diaphragm which support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen)
  • Diaphragm (this breathing muscle is interdependent on core activation)

Why is a strong core so important?

The core muscles are the base of support for your entire body. Since the core supports your spine and pelvis and connects your upper and lower body, it allows for transfer of force during activities of daily life. Simply put, the core literally and figuratively supports almost every activity from walking your dog, to snatching, and completing a pilates teaser. The most common problem with core engagement is that clients  “hollow out their abdomens,” or “brace for activity,” rather than visualizing and contracting through deep abdominal activation.

How can you tell if you’re properly activating your core?

Take our simple test:

Step 1: Place your hands on your hip bones and slide them in towards your belly button.

Step 2: Take a deep breath and allow breathing to return to normal.

Step 3: Activate the area right below your fingers. True core activation should feel as though you are pulling the belly button in towards the spine, while contracting lower abdominals without holding your breath.

Step 4: Visualize the lower abdominals contracting– just like a bicep curl.

(The feeling is similar to trying on a pair of jeans, tightening a belt loop, or pulling up spanx!)

Try these core movements utilizing the activation techniques above. Work for 40 seconds and rest for 20. Repeat for three rounds. When you’re ready for advanced modifications email us!

Movement 1: Classic Plank

Movement 2: Supine Bridging

Movement 3: Bird Dogs





Duff, W. R. D., Andrushko, J. W., Renshaw, D. W., Chilibeck, P. D., Farthing, J. P., Danielson, J., & Evans, C. D. (2018). Impact of Pilates Exercise in Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of MS Care, 20(2), 92–100.

Lee, H. T., Oh, H. O., Han, H. S., Jin, K. Y., & Roh, H. L. (2016). Effect of mat pilates exercise on postural alignment and body composition of middle-aged women. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(6), 1691–1695.

Moon, J.-H., Hong, S.-M., Kim, C.-W., & Shin, Y.-A. (2015). Comparison of deep and superficial abdominal muscle activity between experienced Pilates and resistance exercise instructors and controls during stabilization exercise. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 11(3), 161–168.

Bullo V, Bergamin M, Gobbo S, Sieverdes JC, Zaccaria M, Neunhaeuserer D, Ermolao A. The effects of Pilates exercise training on physical fitness and wellbeing in the elderly: A systematic review for future exercise prescription. Prev Med. 2015;75:1–11



Related Posts

Is Meditation the Key to Evolutionary Fitness?

We live in a perceivably tech-dominated world hyper-focused on the instagram filtered definition of success. Within moments of waking, we frantically check emails and text messages, scroll through three or four social media apps; we move through life seeking...

Why Refresh is Better Than Resolve

As the calendar date changes to January, we hear others around us setting lofty goals to attain “better health, amp up fitness goals, and loose the last 10 lbs.”  The ritual of making goals and resolutions can feel dated,...

Can We Influence Hunger Hormones for a Healthy Metabolism?

Do you wonder why you feel hungry all the time? Do you crave sugar first thing in the morning, and reach for snacks late into the night? Let’s take a look at the simple relationship between hunger and satiety...