Your "core"

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I am sure everyone is getting sick of hearing about my experience at the gym, but I really can't get over how much dressage "stuff" I am learning there.

Take, for example, the term "core".

What is your core?

After countless Pilates and riding lessons, I don't think it is as easy as calling your "core" the girdle of muscles that wraps around your torso.

For starters, I think most people go to exercise classes to improve their stomach muscles and only like the term "core" because it is new and trendy - like Zumba or Thai-Bo. Honestly, have you ever met a person who exercises because "they love their body, except their wimpy back"?! So, to most people at the gym, a "core" workout is mostly focused on the front stomach muscles. After multiple exercise classes, with multiple instructors, I have now been trained that my gym "core" rarely involves the back/Transverse Abdominis as much as the front of ab muscles.

Transverse Abdominis - See Photo Right


In a riding lesson, on the other hand "activate your core" does not mean "flex your front stomach muscles and maybe use your back if you think of it". In fact, I find it requires limited front abdominal strength with a large emphasis on Transverse Abdominis/back strength.

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As a case study, I would like to throw myself under the bus :)

After countless days at the gym, working my abdominal muscles to the point of nausea, my front ab muscles are SORE. I would also like to point out that my gym classes have proven that they are not that strong. Granted, I am not a wimp, but several people in my "Ab Solution" class kicked my butt in the strength department. My front abs are so sore, that I worried I would be unable to ride properly. However, I got on some pretty tough horses and had no problems getting some great trot lengthenings and canter half pass out of them.

Why, I thought, am I able to ride well with little abdominal strength? Then I thought about my "core" girdle and the other muscles involved. Only then did it occur to me that in the 2 weeks I have been going to the gym, my back/Transverse Abdominis have not been sore the whole time. My legs have been so sore I could barely walk downstairs, but I haven't done one "core" exercise that has challenged anything but my front ab muscles.

Sure, I have done a lot of exercises, but I guess the rest of my core is so strong from riding that my gym workouts aren't a challenge... which means something, because those workouts are tough!

So here is my conclusion:

Gym "core" means mostly front abdominal and a little Transverse Abdominis/back muscle involved.
Dressage "core" means mostly Transverse Abdominis/back with a little ab muscle involved.
Keeping this in mind, I am not sure that (at least for me) Pilates and "ab" workouts will really benefit the key muscles I need to improve my riding the way that plain old back exercises will.

This is one lady who is now going to the gym to strengthen her back :)