Strengthen Your Core Muscles with Physical Therapy


Strengthen Your Core Muscles with Physical Therapy

You’ve probably heard of “core muscles” before, but the term “anticipatory core” is usually unfamiliar to most people. The core is traditionally thought of as the abdominal muscles, and related to conditions like low back pain or spine instability. However, there’s much more to the core than just the abdominal muscles. The anticipatory core group consists of 4 muscles: the respiratory diaphragm, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor group, and multifidus. We will discuss the anatomy of each muscle, how they work together, and the role they play in pelvic health conditions like urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Respiratory diaphragm:

This is your main breathing muscle. It’s a large, umbrella shaped muscle that sits at the bottom of your ribcage and separates your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity. When you breathe in, this muscle will expand downward to draw air into your lungs. When you breathe out, this muscle contracts back up.


Transverse Abdominis:

This is the deepest of all of the abdominal muscles. It wraps from your spine all the way to the front of your abdomen, almost like a built-in girdle. It is important for spinal stability and managing pressure in your abdominal cavity.


Pelvic Floor Muscles:

This group of muscles sits in the base of your pelvis like a sling. They have many important functions like postural stability, sphincter control, sexual appreciation, and pelvic organ support.



This muscle covers your entire spine. It has more mass at the base of your spine near your sacrum, with muscle fibers decreasing in bulk at the top of your spine in your neck. This muscle helps control spine motion and provides stability.


All four of these muscles will activate in a specific order milliseconds before you perform an activity such as reaching to take an object off a shelf, bending to lift a laundry basket, prior to a sneeze or cough, or any number of things. They do this to provide stability and support to your trunk. If these muscles are weak or not activating properly, people may rely on breathing holding or increased intra-abdominal pressure to provide that core stability, which can put too much pressure on the pelvic cavity and cause leakage, contribute to pelvic organ prolapse, or other issues. Visiting a physical therapist if you experience any of the above mentioned issues can get you started on a core strengthening program that addresses ALL of the core muscles, not just the abdominals. Physical therapists will assess the current function of your muscles, and teach you how to isolate and activate the muscles if you are unable to do so on your own. The therapist will also teach you specific exercises to strengthen these muscles, and train your body to use them in functional patterns the way you would in your normal daily life.

Written by Genevieve Tatara DPT- Physical Therapist at our Lewes office and Pelvic Floor Specialist.

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