It is primarily muscle that supports your lower spinal column from the bottom of the ribcage to the top of the pelvis. The abdominals are layered sheet-like muscles that wrap at different angles around your waist. They act as an anatomical corset. They contract against everyday hidden forces that attempt to twist, bend and turn your torso. There are benefits to learning how to activate your abdominal muscles and challenge them. It is a widely held belief that just about every strength exercise done in any position requires skill in activating and lifting the abdominal wall to stabilize the spinal column. That heavy grocery bag swung by your arms to the car, the dumbbell in your hand, or the ankle weight attached to your leg, all of these, if moved without control and at a high enough acceleration can tug-on and move the spine in a way that can strain it. Activating the abdominal wall is a protective measure. There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to apply load to the body to challenge and condition these muscles. Core strength exercises can be a valuable addition to one’s fitness regimen. There can be challenges however when incorporating these types of moves. The neck and the low back are two common areas that if compromised in any way, can limit ones ability to attain a meaningful enough challenge in training the abdominals. Enduring and pushing through joint aches or pains during an abdominal curls will typically limit the gain received from the exercise and can result in more pain. There are all kinds of mechanical tricks in the pockets of physical therapists for dealing with these issues. Physical therapy is a unique profession that helps people solve movement problems such as these by employing carefully designed and dosed movement interventions.
Anna Kotula DPT