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By Teresa Roberts
In the process of having six children, my Mother was encouraged by her doctor to wear a man made girdle which she has done most of her life. The girdle would flatten the stomach and tighten the behind by constriction of the garment. It gave support to the lower back and pelvic floor muscles. Last, but not least, it held up your nylon stockings if it had the right snaps and attachments. The girdle treated the symptoms, but did not solve the problem.
God created us with a “natural girdle” made up of what we refer to as “core muscles.” Often times when people hear core muscles they immediately assume abdominal muscles. Abdominals often get credit for protecting the back and being the foundation of strength, but in reality they are only a small part of what makes up the core. Without being too technical, in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. These muscles include the abs, the obliques (located on sides and front of abs), your lower back muscles, the erector spinae, (group of three muscles which run along your neck to the lower back), and your glutes which is located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
I want to give you enough description of these muscles so you can understand how they form a natural girdle. The deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis, acts like a weight belt, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability. These are the muscles across the belly. The obliques, as stated are the muscles on the side and front of the abdomen, around the waist. You have the erector spinae running vertically up the back, and the latissimus dorsi going horizontally across. As we learn the anatomy we were created with and how to use it, we will find God had a much better plan than putting on superficial supports and not using our muscles.
The goal of the core is to stabilize and maintain a solid foundation and transfer energy from the center of the body out to the limbs. When we refer to “core strength,” it refers to the muscles of your abs and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced. If our “natural girdle” is stretched out, weak, and unable to do what it was created to, we encounter all kinds of repercussions. One of the most common repercussions is back pain. Back pain is common because so many muscles have to contract and relax in order to allow you to stand and move. Tendons attach muscles to bones, ligaments hold your vertebrae together, and muscles protect your spine and hold your body in place. If all of these are strong and healthy, you are good to go. But, if you have weak muscles, poor posture will result, and the back will be one of the first places to feel the strain.
We have to exercise these muscles to strengthen them. I could give you a long list of exercises, but I recommend doing your own research. Education is the best motivator. Start with simply focusing on strengthening lower back muscles, your glutes, abs, and obliques. Water exercise is the most effective exercise I have found for overall core strength. The reason being your core muscles are constantly engaged the whole time you are in the water. The buoyancy, inertia, (movement of water) and the resistance of the water forces you to constantly use the core for stability and balance.
Learn good posture. Go back to the basics. Stand tall, chest up, shoulders down and back. Use your “natural girdle” to slightly hold in your abs. A slight contraction by keeping the navel pulled toward the spine will help keep those muscles strong, not to mention looking like you have just lost five pounds!
When you are sitting, place your feet flat on the floor, with your hips, knees, and ankles creating a ninety degree angle. If you are short, don’t let your feet dangle. Use a foot rest. Sit deep--there should be no gap between your tush and the lower back of the chair. Keep hips under shoulders and shoulders down and back. Always keep your chin in line with your chest—don’t jut it forward.
Everything can’t be said in an article, but I hope this bit of information will make you aware of the importance of learning how to use the “natural girdle” God created us with. I put a great deal of emphasis on posture when teaching the water classes. Good posture enables you to keep your “girdle” strong because of constant engagement of your muscles. If your “natural girdle” is weak and worn, let’s get busy doing a make-over and focus on prevention rather than cure. Again, we can solve a lot of the healthcare crisis by taking responsibility for our own health.
Teresa Roberts is owner of Masterpiece Fitness, and a Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, WaterArt Instructor, Water Rehabilitation Specialist, Sports Conditioning Specialist, and Cancer Exercise Specialist. Please check out her website @ masterpiecefitness.com. Find Masterpiece Fitness on Facebook. For questions, comments, or appointments, email: email@example.com, or phone 276-236-8748, (cell) 276-237-6680.