Flexibility and core strength are key elements to have in your training or rehabilitation.
Stretching and flexibility:
Warm up your muscles and then stretch to about 70-80% and hold for longer periods of time(4-10 minutes to really feel the release of some fascial constrictions). You may feel a slight burning sensation as things release, go slow, tune in, and stop if you experience any sharp pain.
The primary restrictions to a stretch are found in the connective tissue and tendons in and around the muscle, including the fascia.
Fascial constrictions are responsible for a large percentage of our musculo-skeletal pain and disease. The actual muscle fibers do not play as significant a role, as one might think, in the elongation of a muscle through flexibility training.
When you first start a stretch, this is the elastic phase where the muscle is elongated, when you stop stretching while in this elastic phase the muscles will return to their original length with in a few hours and no residual or long term increase in muscle length will remain. This is common in preceding an activity or sporting event.
When a muscle is stretched for an extended period of time (ideally after being warmed up) it will enter into the plastic phase where by the muscles elongate and experience plastic deformation of the tissue. This plastic deformation of the tissue is a long term increase in the length of the muscles and will carry over from day to day, as well as, release some constrictions in the surrounding connective tissues and tendons.
The core refers to the muscles in our abdomen and low back that are responsible for stabilizing our body in every movement we do. It will take a little time to get the hang of this. Don't worry. Just keep practicing. It is a crucial element upon which to build and incorporate other trainings. We are engaging muscles that are typically not used to firing and it will take a little time and practice to strengthen the neuromuscular connection (signal from our brain to our muscles telling them to contract).
A few things that might help to focus in on the muscles we are targeting are:
*Stop the flow of urine when urinating.
*Practice your kegals (lifting your perineum) while sitting a stability ball.
*When engaging your core, place your hands on ASIS (top of your hips) and drop inward towards your pelvic floor muscles (this will help you tune in to some of the muscles we are targeting as you engage your core.
How to Engage Your Core:
We are basically trying to contract the deepest layer of abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles, as well as, low back.
*Lay flat on your back with your knees bent.
*Exhale. It's easier to find on an exhale.
*Pelvic tilt (roll hips back so as to flatten out the curve in your low back against the floor) (don't over do it, be natural and think spinal elongation). As you are finding your neutral spine position try bringing your hips and ribs slightly towards each other.
*Stabilize hips and shoulders. Anchoring four points: hips and shoulders to the floor. Think of yourself as a box with these four anchored points. (hip stabilization and core engagement is fundamental to many other movements)
*Lift your perineum (Perineum is the small muscle between your anus and genitals) Child birthing classes often refer to this as a kegal. It is not so much a clamp down, as it is a lifting. It is kind of like you are holding in gas. Three main meridian lines connect in at this point.
*Think of zipping up a tight pair of pants.
*Pull the belly button down towards the floor and slightly up towards your head, then pull/collapse abs down and in.
*Contract your transverse abdominal muscles, as well as, all other small deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
Your core should now be engaged. Several key words you can use to remember the process might be kegal, Zipper, contract TVA (transverse Abdominus).
As you progress with this, try adding several elements, like dropping your diaphragm down and trying to breathe more three dimensionally (what I mean is not just belly breathing or chest breathing, but thinking about as you inhale having the breathe originate in the lower belly and expand to all your extremities filling and nourishing your whole body.
As we move past the basic anatomy and physiology of the core, what muscles fire, how to fire them and in what sequence, we can start to think of our core as a living breathing thing that moves, rolls, twists, counter twists, expands, contracts, and unifies our entire body, even to the point of moving multidirectional simultaneously.