The Core Muscles of Core Exercise (aka…an Anatomy Lecture)

Understanding the Anatomy of Corecore exercise, breathing, DNS Exercises

The Core Muscles of Core Exercise (aka…an Anatomy Lecture)

New Years is coming up so you are probably seeing the swarm of advertisements saying “New Year, New You” or “get your body beach ready”. When we talk about core exercises it’s important to remember what exactly makes up that core. When talking about the core a lot of  people think about the fancy six-pack muscles but there’s so much more than that. So here it goes…the core is comprised of the following:


DNS, breathing, core exercises

  • What does it attach to?Lumbar vertebra (1-3)core exercise, breathing, DNS
    • Lower 6 ribs
    • Back of sternum & xiphoid process
  • Function?
    • Concentrically contracts and lowers on inhalation
    • Eccentrically contracts and rises on exhalation
    • Helps mobilize the ribs, lumbar spine and thoracic spine
  • What does it attach to?
    • Vertebra from sacrum to skull
  • Function?
    • Important role in stabilizing the joints within the spine
    • Supports and protects the spine and pelvis to prepare movement of limbs
    • Commonly inhibited in pain
Abdominal Raphe (Linea Alba & Linea Semilunaris)
  • What does it attach to?
    • Runs along anterior abdominal wall connecting xiphoid with pubic symphysis and crest
    • Receives attachment of obliques and transverse abdominis
    • Extends from cartilage of 9th rib to pubic bone
  • Function?
    • Mostly collagen connective tissue
Rectus Abdominis (the six-pack…actually the eight-pack, but who is counting?)core exercises, Addison chiropractic, Addison chiropractor, chiropractor Addison, chiropractic Addison
  • What does it attach to?
    • Arises from pubic symphysis and runs vertical to typhoid and costocartilage of 5th and 7th ribs
    • Contained in rectus sheath (which is derived from external obliques, internal obliques and transverse abdominis)
  • Function?
    • Important in forced exhalation
    • Helps with strength termination
External Obliquescore exercises, Addison chiropractic, Addison chiropractor, chiropractor Addison, chiropractic Addison
  • What does it attach to?
    • 5th-12th ribs
    • Connects with fibers of serrates anterior and latissimus dorsi
    • Connects to iliac crest
    • Crosses the pubic symphysis
  • Function?
    • Stabilize the pubic symphysis (with anterior pelvic floor muscles)
Internal Obliques
  • What does it attach to?
    • Connects to thoracolumbar fascia posteriorly (via transverse abdominis tendon)
    • Connects to anterior iliac crest and lateral inguinal ligament
    • Posterior fibers connect to 11th and 10th ribs
  • Function?
    • Accessory muscle of respiration
    • Forms inguinal ligament with transverse abdominis
    • Rotates and side-bends the trunk by pulling the rib cage and midline towards the hip and lower back, of the same side with contralateral external oblique
Transverse Abdominis
  • What does it attach to?
    • Connects to thoracolumbar fascia with tendon and iliac crest
    • Connects to the lower 6 ribs and lateral aspect of inguinal ligament
    • Inserts into linea alba
  • Function?
    • Forms inguinal ligament with internal obliques
    • Helps support the spine and internal organs
Psoascore exercises, Addison chiropractic, Addison chiropractor, chiropractor Addison, chiropractic Addison
  • What does it attach to?
    • All lumbar vertebra bilaterally
    • Lateral edges of vertebra from T12-L4 (and intervertebral discs!)
    • Lesser trochanter of femur
  • Function?
    • Stress response shortens the psoas
    • Affects structural balance
      • Commonly seen in an anteriorly tilted pelvis and/or rib thrusting
Pelvic Floor
  • Function?
    • During breathing, raises and lowers synergistically with the diaphragm
    • Works to control the spine and pelvis by offering support for abdominal and pelvic organs
    • Supports the urethral and anal sphincters (what you pee and poop out of)
Superficial Pelvic Floor
  • Composed of bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus, superficial transverse perineal, external anal sphincter
  • Function?
    • In women, it contributes to clitoral erection and orgasm
    • Helps empty the canal of the urethra
Deep Urogenital Diaphragm Layer
  • Composed of deep transverse perineal
  • Function? Supports central tendon of perineum through perineal body
Pelvic diaphragm
  • Composed of levator ani (pubocococcygeus, iliococcygeus, coccygeus), piriformis, obturator internus
  • Function?
    • Support pelvic viscera
    • Closes back part of pelvic outlet
    • Keeps vagina and rectum closed
    • Facilitates birth

Up Next? Learn about the The Hows and Whys to Working that Sexy Core!

Dysfunctional Breathing: The Whys

Dysfunctional Breathing

“Breathing becomes dysfunctional when the person is unable to breathe efficiently or when breathing is inappropriate, unhelpful or inefficient in responding to environmental conditions and the changing needs of the individual.” (4)  Dysfunctional breathing and it's effects can be found:


But one thing in health that is sometimes over-looked is the why. Why do we have dysfunctional breathing or what are the causes? There are three main causes of dysfunctional breathing:

1. Developmental Adaptations

During the first year of life, our bodies should go through an ideal developmental pattern that helps create a stabilization system and helps form posture. Two studies (Vjota and Prechtl) both indicated that 69.7-72% of children develop normally while ~30% have abnormal development. (5) 

This is one reason developmental kinesiology and the work of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) are important. Both address the ideal developmental pattern that can be adapted as an adult for the 30% of the population that may not have developed a strong stabilizing system in infancy.

2. Physiological / Medical

Hyperinflation of the lungs causes air to get trapped in the lungs. This hyperinfalation, often seen in COPD, asthma or emphysema and severe pneumonia, and congestive heart failure causes the diaphragm to shorten and lose its power and efficiency. (3)

In 2001, Hodges et al stated that the coordinating function between the diaphragm and transverse abdominis are frequently reduced in respiratory disease. (2) When the diaphragm contracts it is unable to properly lift and expand the lower ribcage and instead the lower ribs are pulled inward during inspiration creating what's called a Hoover's sign.

2. Emotional / Psychological

Both psychological and emotional stress can alter the diaphragm’s control. Dysfunctional breathing has been shown to be present in 11% of the normal population, 30% of asthma sufferers and 83% in people suffering from anxiety. (4) It has been reported that voluntary breath modulation accounts for 40% of the variance in positive feelings such as joy and negative feelings such as fear, sadness and anger (7).dysfunctional breathing, Addison chiropractor, chiropractic, bloomingdale chiropractor Villa Park chiropractor, Itasca chiropractor, Medinah chiropractor, pregnancy and postpartum chiropractor

In 2001, Umezawa found that breathing modification is the most common self-regulation strategy for relaxation and stress management. (6) Chaitow stated that in “Overbreathing: A Mind-Body Vicious Circle” that over-breathing and anxiety go hand-in-hand as anxiety increases the sympathetic system which causes an increase in breathing rate which leads to excessive carbon dioxide loss and in the end lead to a decreased pain threshold and more anxiety and overbreathing. (9) In 2010, Meuret stated that reducing hyperventilation “has emerged as a potent mediator for reductions in panic symptom severity and treatment success.” (8) Furthermore, studies have shown that conscious control of ones breathing can improve anxiety, depression and panic disorders. (11)


  2. Hodges et al. Postural activity of the diaphragm is reduced in humans when respiratory demand increases. J. Physiol. 2001 Dec 15; 537(Pt3): 999-1008. (
  3. Hoover CF. The diagnostic significance of inspiratory movements of the costal margin. J Am Clin Sci 1920: 633-46
  4. Courtney R. The function of breathing and its dysfunctions and their relationship to breathing therapy. Int J of Osteo Med. 2009;12:78-8
  5. H. F. R. Prechtl and B. Hopkins, “Developmental transformations of spontaneous movements in early infants,” Early Human Development, vol. 14, no. 3-4, pp. 233–238, 1986.
  6. Umezawa A. (2001) Facilitation and Inhibition of Breathing During Changes in Emotion. In: Haruki Y., Homma I., Umezawa A., Masaoka Y. (eds) Respiration and Emotion. Springer, Tokyo
  7. Respiratory feedback in the generation of emotion. Pierre Philippot, Gaëtane Chapelle & Sylvie Blairy. Cognition and Emotion. Vol. 16, lss. 5, 2002.
  8. Meuret AE, Ritz T. Hyperventilation in Panic Disorder and Asthma: Empirical Evidence and Clinical Strategies. International journal of psychophysiology : official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology. 2010;78(1):68-79. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2010.05.006.
  9. Chaitow L Gilbert C Bradley D. Recognizing and Treating Breathing Disorders. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2013.
  10. Ley R. The Modification of Breathing Behavior Pavlovian and Operant Control in Emotion and Cognition. Behav Modif. 1999;23(3):441-479.

Understanding the Different Breathing Options


Understanding the Different Breathing Options

When researching pregnancy and postpartum breathing as well as proper breathing when lifting, we run across three main types of breathing- abdominal hallowing, piston breathing, and diaphragmatic breathing. Each have their pros and cons and which is why understanding the different breathing options is an important aspect in knowing WHY we are doing something (#knowbetterdobetter).

Why the breath matters

Breathing matters because the breath is the key to a strong and stable core and body is the ability to create pressure, specifically intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), within the abdomen. IAP is fundamental in the initiation, control and prevention of movement.

Want the science on why Intra-Abdominal pressure is a GOOD thing, check the previous blog post, "For the love of all things good, stop sucking in."

Abdominal Hallowing / Sucking-In / Belly Button to Spine

Abdominal hallowing was previously mentioned in this blog but here's a quick breakdown...


  • Activates the transverse abdominis


  • Isolates the transverse abdominis through concentric contraction and separates the diaphragm and pelvic floor
  • Inhibits activation of abdominal oblique musculature
  • Sub-optimally strengthens the abdominal musculature through concentric contraction
  • Creates oblique position of diaphragm and pelvic floor (see consequences of less than optimal breathing below)
  • Not replicated in any functional movement

Piston Breathing


  • Helps one connect with the pelvic floor
  • A great start: more beneficial long-term than abdominal hallowing and chest breathing as it focuses on trying to connect the diaphragm and pelvic floor
  • Focuses on proper posture/alignment as well as breathing
  • Pulls the breath out of the chest and into the belly, which is where one wants/needs to breath


  • Piston breathing implies unidirectional pressure with tight sides...when taught it typically includes something along the lines of "we quickly and forcefully draw the breath into the belly"
    • This is not functional as one does not isometrically contract to breathe and move throughout the day
    • The breath should never be "forceful"
  • The pelvic floor and diaphragm should never be working separate of the abdominal musculature as this can create additional dysfunction
    • One does not want to tighten the abdominal musculature in preparation of the inhalation as this separates the co-contraction activation that should occur
    • The breath should create an eccentric activation of the abdominal muscles which then allows the muscles to tighten/loosen as they need in order to regulate the internal pressure

Diaphragmatic Breathing


  • The diaphragm, all abdominal musculature and the pelvic floor co-contract in coordination to create appropriate intra-abdominal pressure (IAP)
    • IAP is what gives one strength and stabilizes the core to protect the spine from injury
    • Coordinated co-contraction keeps the pelvic floor, diaphragm and musculature working in unison, which is the basis for optimal breathing (see below consequences of less than optimal breathing) (6, 7)
    • Optimal movements - if you want to strengthen the glute med you would pick a single-leg deadlift over a clam shell, the diaphragm is no different
  • Creates 360 degrees of expansion to stabilize the abdominal musculature, back musculature and pelvic floor
  • Focuses on proper posture in both standing and seated position (4, 5, 13)
  • Replicated in day-to-day function


  • It may initially feel forced until the proper breathing patterns are learned
    • The goal is to make the breath more automatic/reflexive and a habit...when initially learning to do diaphragmatic breathing, it may feel a little forced as one is not accustomed to breathing in this manner and it takes time to train the proper breathing mechanics
  • It may be difficult to learn due to compensation that has been trained throughout the years
    • One way to help learn the breathing easier is to utilize the Core360 belt which helps one activate their core correctly and consistently

Consequences of less than optimal breathing

Less than optimal breathing often leads to a functional cascade of complications/pain or faulty movement patterns. Some of those consequences include:

  1. Oblique position of diaphragm & pelvic floor which can create/may lead to:

    Understanding the Different Breathing Options ,piston breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal hallowing, Addison chiropractor, pregnancy chiropractor, postpartum chiropractor, women chiropractor, pelvic floor

    • Increased lumbar lordosis and increased intra-fiscal pressure: more likely to  ave back pain or disc injury, chronic back tightness and hyperactivity of lumbar erectors
    • Lumbopelvic and hip instability : hamstring pain with bending and sitting, trigger points in low back, buttock and upper hamstring (14, 15, 16)
    • Anteverted pelvis: can lead to butt-wink in squat (8, 9, 10)
    • Poor thoracic extension and scapular stability: more likely to have shoulder and upper back/neck pain
  2. Non-coordinated co-contraction of diaphragm, pelvic floor and abdominal musculature:Weak abdominals: the abdominal wall does not offer resistance to the diaphragm contraction which does not allow for appropriate IAP
    • Tight abdominals: the abdominal wall is too tight and the diaphragm and lower ribs cannot move downward to create ideal diaphragm activation and IAP
  3. Secondary effects:
    • Pelvic organ prolapse and urinary/fecal incontinence (3, 11)
      • Often caused by a lack of tonic support and muscular strength of the pelvic floor, core and surrounding pelvic girdle musculature (1)
    • Increased risk of diastasis recti
    • Increased risk of disc herniation (14, 15)
    • Upper back and neck pain (18)

Benefits of proper diaphragmatic breathing

  1. Improves core stability 
    • Coordinates and strengthens all components of the deep core musculature – pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominals, multifidi, and diaphragm (2)
    • Contracting the diaphragm increases intra-abdominal pressure and generates a co-contraction of the pelvic floor muscles (pubococcygeus, puborectalis, and iliococcygeus) and transverse abdomens (17)
  2. Decreased neck and shoulder pain (21)
    • Improved function of Sternocleidomastoid muscle which may decrease ringing in the ear (19)
    • Decreased use of pectoralis and scalenes which are commonly recruited in faulty breathing patterns (20)
  3. Improved ventilation of the lungs (22, 23)
    • Increasing the inspiratory volume naturally increases the level of oxygen in the blood
    • Maximize the diaphragm's efficiency in performing breathing activity


  1. Sapsford R. Rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscles utilizing trunk stabilization. Man Ther. 2004;9(1):3-12.
  2. Lee DG. The Pelvic Girdle: An integration of clinical expertise and research, 4e. Churchill Livingstone; 2010.
  3. Wei, J.T. and DeLancey, J.O. Functional anatomy of the pelvic floor and lower urinary tract. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2004; 47: 3–17
  4. Sapsford RR, Richardson CA, Maher CF, Hodges PW. Pelvic floor muscle activity in different sitting postures in continent and incontinent women. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2008;89(9):1741-1747.15.
  5. Sapsford R. R., Hodges P. W., Richardson C. A., et al. Co-activation of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles during voluntary exercises. Neurourology and Urodynamics. 2001;20(1):31–42.
  6. Bø K. Urinary incontinence, pelvic floor dysfunction, exercise and sport. Sports Medicine. 2004;34(7):451–464. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434070-00004.
  7. Pereira L. C., Botelho S., Marques J., et al. Are transversus abdominis/oblique internal and pelvic floor muscles coactivated during pregnancy and postpartum? Neurourology and Urodynamics. 2013;32(5):416–419. doi: 10.1002/nau.22315.
  8. Soljanik I., Janssen U., May F., et al. Functional interactions between the fossa ischioanalis, levator ani and gluteus maximus muscles of the female pelvic floor: a prospective study in nulliparous women. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics. 2012;286(4):931–938. doi: 10.1007/s00404-012-2377-4.
  9. Capson A. C., Nashed J., Mclean L. The role of lumbopelvic posture in pelvic floor muscle activation in continent women. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 2011;21(1):166–177. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2010.07.017.
  10. Cerruto M. A., Vedovi E., Mantovani W., D'Elia C., Artibani W. Effects of ankle position on pelvic floor muscle electromyographic activity in female stress urinary incontinence: preliminary results from a pilot study. Archivio Italiano di Urologia e Andrologia. 2012;84(4):184–188.
  11. Halski T., Słupska L., Dymarek R., et al. Evaluation of bioelectrical activity of pelvic floor muscles and synergistic muscles depending on orientation of pelvis in menopausal women with symptoms of stress urinary incontinence: a preliminary observational study. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:8. doi: 10.1155/2014/274938.274938
  12. Devreese A., Staes F., Janssens L., Penninckx F., Vereecken R., de Weerdt W. Incontinent women have altered pelvic floor muscle contraction patterns. The Journal of Urology. 2007;178(2):558–562. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2007.03.097.
  13. Chmielewska D, Stania M, Sobota G, et al. Impact of Different Body Positions on Bioelectrical Activity of the Pelvic Floor Muscles in Nulliparous Continent Women. BioMed Research International. 2015;2015:905897. doi:10.1155/2015/905897.
  14. Hebert JJ, Koppenhaver SL, Magel JS, Fritz JM. The relationship of transversus abdominis and lumbar multifidus activation and prognostic factors for clinical success with a stabilization exercise program: a cross-sectional study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2010;91(1):78-85
  15. Cholewicki J, Silfies SP, Shah RA, et al. Delayed trunk muscle reflex responses increase the risk of low back injuries. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2005;30:2614-2620
  16. Holmich P, Larsen K, Krogsgaard K, Gluud C. Exercise program for prevention of groin pain in football players: a cluster-randomized trial. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20:814-821
  17. Akuthota V, Nadler SF. Core strengthening. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2004;85(3)(suppl 1):S86-S92
  18. Ingraham, Paul. The Respiration Connection: How breathing might be a root cause of a variety of common upper body pain problems and injuries. updated September 13, 2016 (published 2005).
  19. Travell J, Simons D, Simons L. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. 2nd ed. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 1999. p314.
  20. Magee DJ. Orthopedic physical assessment. WB Saunders Company; 1997. pp219-221.
  21. Padula CA, Yeaw E. Inspiratory muscle training: integrative review. Research & Theory For Nursing Practice. 2006 Winter;20(4):291–304.
  22. Kolar P, Neuwirth J, Sanda J, Suchanek V, Svata Z, Volejnik J, Pivec M. Analysis of diaphragm movement during tidal breathing and its during activation while breath holding using MRI synchronized with Spirometry. Physiol Res 2009;58:383-92
  23. Kolar P, Sulc J, Kyncl M, Sanda J, Neuwirth J, Bokarius AV, Kriz J, Kobesova A. J Applied Physiol Aug 2010



Goals...why set them? Whether you are coming in with low back pain and want to be able to sleep at night or you want to play volleyball or football without medial knee pain, goals matter. Without specific goals we may stray away from what is important.

Why are goals important?

In every form of treatment we do, we focus on your goals and how to accomplish them. We will constantly discuss how each treatment, movement, or exercise is serving your goals.

Performing an adjustment or exercise for the sake of "doing something" will not help you reach your goals. Each treatment component needs to be centered around your needs and wants.

What are my goals as the doctor?

My goals is for you to be informed on why we are doing each exercise/adjustment and how it will help you accomplish your goals. If you are interested in letting me help you reach your goals, please call (331) 307-7110 to schedule an appointment today.

Flexibility vs. Stability


Have you ever heard or thought, "I've been to a chiropractor and been adjusted but it just seems to come back" or "I keep stretching my hamstrings but they are always tight" or "I can get a massage but it only lasts for 1-2 days"? You are not alone. But first, some definitions and benefits. Flexibility: the quality of bending easily without breaking. Stability: the state of being stable (not likely to give way or overturn; firmly fixed)

Benefits of flexibility training:

  • Reduces stress in the exercising muscles
  • Increase range of motion
  • Reduces the risk of injury during exercise and daily activities

Benefits of Stability and Strength training:

  • Helps develop better body mechanics
  • Protects bone health and muscle mass
  • Boosts energy and improves mood

Why do these matter?

Flexibility and stability should not be considered as separate entities.

Without stability, a flexible muscle can feel tight or continually cause pain and discomfort. If someone is extremely flexible they can also be at increased risk of injury because they cannot adequately support themselves.

Without flexibility, you are strengthening dysfunction. For instance, if our adductors are tight  and we try to squat, we may not be able to deep squat because the adductors are limiting hip flexion. Rather than strengthening an incomplete squat we should increase the flexibility of the adductors thereby allowing a squat below 90 and then add strengthening. You don't want to strengthen a muscle that doesn't have its full range of motion.

Why has chiropractic/massage/stretching not worked for me?

When we talk about frequently getting chiropractic adjustments, massages or stretching without success, we are talking about increasing flexibility. The thing is, these areas may already be flexible and what they really need is stability/strength.

Rather than stretching until your face goes blue, it is important to find out what your body truly needs - which may be stability/strength.

Why do I have pain when lifting?

If you are frequently battling aches and pains when lifting, you may need to increase flexibility of specific muscles.

Rather than lifting through the pain, it is important to find out what your body truly needs - which may be flexibility

My head is spinning, how do I find out what I need?

Call (331) 307-7110 to schedule an appointment today for a thorough evaluation to determine what your body needs. It may be a balancing act of both flexibility and stability!