What Does Core Mean?

Dr. Holly Durney estimates that approximately 75% of her time is spent teaching her patients about the core. In this short video, Dr. Durney explains what is meant when the statement "tighten your core" is made.

By Dr. Holly Durney, PT, OTC


Hi HER Health Collective community! I’m Holly Durney. I’m a physical therapist that specializes in women’s health, treating pelvic floor dysfunction as well as low back pain, sacral pain, either prenatal or postpartum. Something that I wanted to talk about today that I spend, I’d say about 75% of my time teaching my patients is, what does core mean?


Everyone thinks of core as a six pack muscle, doing a bunch of crunches or sit ups trying to find tone. But really, when you think about finding your core, whether or not you’re in a bootcamp class, or a yoga class, or Pilates class, and the instructor says, I want you to tighten your core. What does that mean?


Your core is comprised of multiple muscles, but the most important particularly following delivery is your transversus abdominus. And as in the name, transverse means horizontal. So as you contract your transversus abdominus, you are pulling your front two hip bones closer together and lifting your pelvic floor. So tightening your core is not sucking in, it’s not doing a crunch, it’s not holding your breath, it’s actually drawing the transverse abdominus closer together. Again, the most common cue that I use is “drawing your front to hip bones close together.”


So if your hip bones are here, and you’re tightening up your abdominal muscles, you’re pulling those abdominal muscles closer together. This can help something like a diastasis recti heal. And then in my profession, it also correlates to improve low back pain and sacral pain when you appropriately tighten your core. So the next time you hear “tighten your core” in class, you can think about what I’ve told you today and what it means to actually engage those proper core muscles. All the best!

Dr. Holly Durney is an APTA Orthopedic Certified Specialist and has pelvic floor rehabilitation training from the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. Her pelvic health training focuses on treating pelvic floor dysfunction and related issues in the pelvis, hip, and spine. Her pelvic floor treatments involve assessment including movement patterns, ligament structure, current activity level, and pregnancy history. She believes that treating the whole person is the key to complete health and wellness and to help her patients achieve their goals. 

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