Is ‘inner core day’ part of your strength training regimen? Probably not, but it should be.

The inner core is an oft-overlooked, yet crucial set of muscles that create a strong foundation for all motion. In fact, my ballet teacher used to say “all movement starts in the core.”

The inner core supports your organs, your joints, and your spine. A strong inner core can help prevent injury.

Though important for everyone, strengthening the inner core is absolutely crucial for pregnant women and new moms. The stronger your inner core, the more support for your baby and the other changes that come along with it, such as additional blood flow, fluid, and loose joints.

After you give birth, it is very common for one or more elements of your inner core to weaken. If you don’t take the time to restrengthen this supportive complex postpartum, you run the risk of injury, ineffective workouts and the inability to carry out day-to-day bodily functions. 

Here are the four muscles that make up the inner core and how to use them.

  1. Transverse Abdominus (TA), a deep abdominal muscle that runs horizontally across your body. My teacher likens its activation to a corset tightening. Strengthening the TA can create a foundation for better use of more common abdominal exercises. To work this muscle, perform the TA squeeze.
  2. Pelvic Floor – According to Pelvic Floor Therapist Lindsay Vestal, the pelvic floor is a crucial apparatus for supporting your organs and for day-to-day functioning like intimacy and elimination. Two gentle exercises that can help you activate your pelvic floor are: slow bridges and shallow squats.
  3. Diaphragm – Breathing is an important tool for inner core work. You diaphragm is your main breathing muscle and also helps to stabilize the spine. You can begin strengthening your diaphragm by engaging in diaphragmatic breathing (also called belly breathing).
  4. Multifidus – the multifidus are muscles that run along the spine helping to provide stability to the entire inner core. These muscles are a bit more difficult to find, you can begin to activate them by performing the superman or bird dog.

Like most gains, rebuilding strength in your inner core can be an arduous process, but the benefits are well worth it. Developing these muscles can empower you to find more stability and strength in the gym and beyond.