A Little Anatomy - to get to the burn
The human spine consists of 24 vertebrae. Seven of these bones comprise the neck. The bones and muscles of the neck are designed to flex, extend, side bend, rotate and many times allow for several of these movements at once.
Unfortunately, when it comes to engaging in core ab work, it is all too common for someone to move their neck, and engage only one neck bone rather than all 7 neck bones!
When the neck is not functionally mobilized (including during exercise), the end result most times becomes "a pain in the neck," rather than strengthened core muscles.
EXAMPLE: Pilates "100's" Exercise
Looking at the 2 pictures below, it seems each are practicing the same exercise (the Pilates 100s). If you look a little closer though, you can see the two different head and eye positions - which make all the difference in the safety and efficacy of the exercise!
(NOTE: The the direction of the eyes can be a very powerful tool in one’s exercise, daily functional movement, and in life. To read more about The Power of The Eye, CLICK HERE.)
The head is lifted off the ground, the eyes are looking straight UP, and so the neck is straight (aka extended). In this position, the upper traps (aka trapezius; a vast muscle that spans up the side/back of the neck and across of the upper back) along with neck extensor muscles are in overdrive trying to hold up the head away from gravity (an average weight of the head is 8 – 10lbs). Just looking at this gives me a pain in my neck! ☹ ☹ ☹
In contrast, notice the head is lifted as well as bent forward, bringing the eyes to look forward. This flexed neck position not only brings the head into a supported position where gravity is NOT pulling on the neck, but also immediately brings an AWESOME contraction of the deep abdominal muscles (aka transverse abdominals). This is the way you want to look when doing this exercise!
Getting the Burn, and having the core to show for it...
One of the many awesome functions of our bodies is that the muscles that get used/worked (and not worked) depend upon one’s posture, position and/or chain of movement! The best way to explain and understand is by experience, so go ahead and give these quick below exercises a try and notice the differences you feel.
Self-practice Core Exercises
Compare the results
If the head and neck where properly positioned in each exercise…. Exercise A should have felt like a neck exercise and Exercise B should have felt like an ab exercise!!!!!
This exercise was meant to give you a foundational basis so that it can be virtually applied to any abdominal exercise that requires a head lift.
Pilates - From the Inside - Out
Such a minor difference of each position and movement but such a drastic difference in what the exercise actually strengthens - Neck, or Core. This is a major part of what I LOVE about Pilates, it’s not just movement…. its precision, awareness, control and it strengthens you from the inside to the outside! You can experience more Pilates for Free with Tracy of CoeDynamics with a Free Pilates Videos Series at coe-dynamics.com. Tracy also offers New Client Private specials for in-studio, home visits as well as on-line. Tracy Coe, began her Pilates and Functional Health practice in 2002, after changing careers from the corporate world and followed her passion in guiding others in fitness and health. Today practicing additional modalities such as low scalar laser treatment and nutrition, Tracy continues to guide people from many avenues to look and feel great!
Tracy Coe, CPT-PMA, C-QRA Functional Health & Nutrition Practitioner CoeDynamics
Tracy Coe is a certified QRA functional health and nutrition practitioner who’s passion is to support the community in educating and providing professional documented and researched options of whole foods, cleansing, and toxicity prevention to support short/long term health and and vitality for the individual and family. For more information email email@example.com or call 424.903.3104
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