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  • Colin Liggett

The Most Common Core-inhibiting Muscle

This is going to take some convincing but here it goes….. The most common dysfunction I see is the diaphragm inhibiting core muscles. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but I estimate that 60% of all dysfunctional core patterns I find in a first Sensory Motor Repatterning (SMR) session can be fixed by treating the diaphragm. Now, wait till you hear the second most common dysfunction.....the jaw muscles! Yes, you can stop laughing now, and no I’m not kidding. I estimate that 30% of the time in a first session, the jaw inhibits the core. The other 10% are either the SI joints, muscles along or near the spine, the pelvic floor or muscles of the neck.

So, what is happening and why the hell is everyone's core turned off by the diaphragm or jaw? It’s an easy thing for me to explain how a Quadrates Lumborum (QL) or the internal obliques can be assigned to do the job of the glute medius when a physical injury has caused tissue damage to the glut medius. These muscles have similar functions, so it is reasonable to assume that the brain might create a compensation pattern that fires the QL muscle when the glute medius is injured. When the glute medius is required, the brain sends a stronger neural signal to the QL to hike the hip up instead of abduct the leg etc.

But what happens if you injure yourself and the brain can’t figure out a compensation pattern that makes sense? Well, it panics and starts searching for patterns we use during duress…. and what are the two most common subconscious muscle habits? We hold our breaths or we clench our teeth. Examples might be when you're waiting for that starting gun to fire, the first few peddles on your bike, lifting a heavy object, or even just sleeping. During a state of panic, the brain decides to develop a compensation pattern that changes your habit into a dysfunction, therefore, on every out-breath your core is inhibited and on every in-breath (or breath hold) your core is active. Martial artists are taught to breath out when delivering a blow, yet I have found many to be dysfunctional when breathing out. Pursed lip out-breathing is actually an eccentric contraction of the diaphragm and will give the core more neural strength in this dysfunctional pattern (but it’s still a cheat).

You should, however, be as strong breathing in as breathing out and can typically be achieved in one SMR session whereby the dysfunction will not return. FYI- there is a slight advantage to holding your breath for maximal strength due to the increased inter-abdominal pressure, but unless you're a powerlifter going for a personal best, you should not be holding your breath during exercise.

I refer to compensation patterns that inhibit the core as “global compensations” and I always fix global compensations before I hone in on specific injuries/symptoms such as a sore knee. Sure, I could try and find compensation patterns that are affecting how the knee functions first, but to me that is like changing a flat tire on a burning car. Your core is your foundation to better movement!



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