Low Center vs. High Center: Get Your Core Support Where It Can Serve You Best
By finding and focusing on the right segment of your midsection to improve core support you can improve posture, help eliminate aches and pains, and reduce stress for better health.
One of the things I spend lots of time on with my clients is identifying the difference between Low Center and High Center support. Lack of body awareness, not understanding the difference between low center and high center, not knowing what your normal “go-to” recruiting pattern for core support really is, are just a few of the reasons why I believe so many people have issues with low back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain.
You might “kind of” know that your posture isn’t great. But you might not completely realize that YOU are 100% in charge of HOW you are holding your posture, and 100% in change of WHERE you are holding your posture. You also might not realize how much your “not-so-great” posture habits have been affecting every little ache and pain your body experiences throughout the day.
The cumulative effect of poor posture habits over time, is that some of those little aches and pains turn into chronic problems and for many people this leads to shots, surgeries, and mis-use injuries. But at the root of it all is POSTURE.
It’s nice when a visit to the chiropractor can get you lined up…but how long does it last? Not very if you aren’t doing what you can to help strengthen the right muscles needed to hold your bones in better alignment!
When you better understand the importance of focusing on finding and using your low center to support you, it becomes much easier to sit and stand tall, release tight hips, relax tense shoulders, and develop healthier functional movement habits to stay strong and injury-free.
Yes our body proportions can make it easier or more challenging to find and use low center support, but this is not an excuse, merely an observation. If you want your body to feel better, and you’re interested in working on recruiting better muscle support to help hold your body upright and improve posture, then it’s time to pay attention to your Low-Center vs. High Center holding pattern.
If your belly likes to be in a saggy, “hanging out over your belt” position…Your low center is on Holiday! It’s important to start finding and using more of your Transverse Abdominal muscle. Without this vital portion of abdominal muscle working to lift up, in, and back, your back gets pulled into a bigger sway, your hip flexors and quads tighten up, your pelvis and low back get pulled out of a good posture position, your Glutes don’t get used, the balance of quad to hamstrings is off, so the knees might start to hurt. Your sacrum can get pulled out of position because there is zero support happening in front of it. And not only are the abs weak, but the low back gets tight and weak, the legs don’t swing well from the hips…and more and more of what should be working to help you sit upright, stand tall, and move, just isn’t working.
If nothing is working well down below, the brain goes searching for the next logical place to find strength and support – and we end up living in High Center – by recruiting the chest, arm and shoulders muscles to do the work that really needs to be happening in the hips, pelvis, back, and lower core.
If your current posture habits involve living with your shoulders wrapped up around your ears, and/or you like to breathe into the front of your chest, or you are aware that you like to go to your Shoulders and ARMS first to do almost anything… You’re living in High Center!
Our arms and shoulders are designed to MOVE not to provide stability and support for the whole body. If your arms are on lockdown to support you, AND you need them to move to do something…expect a shoulder injury, or upper back pain, or neck problem to be the result.
Yes we need to improve Posture, and yes that involves getting taller and more lifted, but giving everything away down below to lift UP does not help support a healthy posture position.
If you were a tree with a very tiny root system, a tall trunk, and lots of branches… how well would you stay rooted to the earth? One gentle breeze and the tree would topple over because there is too much MASS above the ground in high center, and not enough support down below. It’s the same with the human body. We need more support / stability down below.
The position of the center of gravity of any object affects its stability. The lower the center of gravity is, the more stable the object. The higher it is the more likely the object is to topple over if it is pushed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tree, a building, a stack of kid’s building blocks, or a human being! If you don’t want to wobble, or are getting older and are more frightened of falling, focus on improving your stability by strengthening your low center.
Now that you’re aware of the Low Center vs. High Center dilemma. The question becomes what’s your current core support habit, Low Center or High Center?
If you’re living in low center, congratulations! If you need to figure out how to find and strengthen your low center start by learning how to anchor your pelvic floor to better access the lift needed through the lower section of your core. The Pilates Standing Roll Down exercise on the wall is another easy way to begin activating the low abs and relaxing the neck, shoulders, and arms.
Another favorite exercise of mine is the KG Curl. The KG Curl exercise can be done flat on a mat, (Knees bent, hands support behind the head, keep the tail and hips still – no tucking, pull the low abs, up, in, and back while curling the head and shoulders up off the mat. Hold the curl and breathe. Inhale up the back of the spine, exhale and continue deepening your low center support.) All your arms do on the KG Curl exercise is help support the weight of the head. No using the arms and upper body to “pull” yourself up higher. My favorite place to get started practicing a KG Curl it is on an incline. Being able to pull your low abs “up the hill” can really help you lengthen the lower back to find and strengthen your low center. Check out the KG Curl Exercise and more with the Pulse Power Daily Dozen Workout.
Being able to balance while laying on a foam roller (especially when you take the hands off the mat) is another great way to focus on finding and strengthening more low center support. Click here to check out my Foam Roller Favorites.
Ultimately your low center needs to be active regardless of the activity and exercises you do. Using low center is a key aspect of doing Pilates, as well as supporting everyday posture.
Low center support is not just about the abs. But strengthening the low belly is a great place to start reducing aches and pains, improving low center stability, and organizing the core support you need for better posture.