Your core muscles play a huge role in your everyday activities, from getting out of bed to walking down the street, and most importantly, helping you stay upright.
Core strength is not just important for those who are active and involved in sports. Having a strong core offers numerous benefits for individuals across all movement levels and all age populations, including desk workers, children, and older adults.
Most people think of six packs when talking about core strength, but there’s much more to it. Your core includes muscles in the front, side, back, top, and bottom of your trunk.
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen to work together. Not only will your core help to stabilize your spine and protect your back, but it will also help to maintain good posture, balance, and stability during activities.
Core strength isn’t just about the aesthetics, it’s about setting your body up for success. Some muscle groups allow you to perform functions on a daily basis to improve core stability. Here are a few:
The abdominal muscles, or abs, are the first muscles we think about when talking about “core” training. There are multiple layers of abdominal muscles ranging from deep to superficial. They help maintain intra-abdominal pressure - acting like a human corset or weight lifting belt. Some main muscles in the abdomen are:
This is your main breathing muscle located at the bottom of your rib cage. It works in unison with the abdominal muscles to maintain intra-abdominal pressure. We will time breathing while performing some exercises for that reason. Utilizing your diaphragm can be a helpful tool to engage your abdominal muscles.
Your pelvic floor consists of muscles and connective tissue that supports important organs in your pelvis - such as your bladder, bowel, and internal reproductive organs. These muscles line the bottom of your pelvis to maintain intra-abdominal pressure, but from below.
The muscles in your lower back help to provide stability to the lumbar spine - your lower back. This muscle is called the Lumbar Multifidus. The multifidus is a small muscle that goes along the sides of the spine to offer support. A weak multifidus muscle can contribute to less stability in the spine, and subsequently result in back pain.
Note: If you suffer from weak abdominal muscles and or weak pelvic floor muscles, back pain might be more likely.
Although not technically part of the abdomen or trunk, hip muscles help to stabilize your pelvis. Remember the pelvis and lumbar spine? Well, they are connected! So by keeping your pelvis stable, you are inherently keeping your spine stable. Without strong hip muscles, many basic movements would be painful or restricted.
Your core is composed of muscles located on the front, back, side, top, and bottom of your trunk. This means that you will have to train your trunk in all planes of motion to appropriately train your core.
Typically exercises will begin in static, isometric, and single planar positions, like a plank. That way you can focus on training one part of the core at a time. Check out a few exercises you can do to improve your core strength.
These are positions where your back is supported, such as lying on a table or leaning against a wall. This allows you to train your core musculature, while also assisting and providing external cueing and support to keep your back in a neutral position.
As you excel in this, you can progress into spine-unsupported positions.
The goal is to resist overextension of the lumbar spine. These are great for working on positions for compound lifts, as well as helping improve posture.
The goal is to resist twisting to one side by maintaining a stable core position. We make static movement more difficult by adding one arm or leg movement challenging your core to keep stable. Some examples of anti-rotation exercises are the bird dog, the pallof press, and plank with shoulder taps.
Keep In Mind: Anti-rotation and anti-extension exercises help to strengthen your hips and core to resist multi-planar forces on the spine, which ultimately protects the spine. These exercises are very important to maximize stability.
Functional core training is targeting the core in movement that is relevant to a person's activities. This is where training can be more sports-specific.
Multi-planar refers to the three different planes that help us perform activities like running, jumping, or throwing. We move in a 3D world, so we must also train in a 3D capacity to adequately prepare us in the real world and prevent potential injury.
The short answer is: potentially. But that isn’t the focus when building core strength. Although, it certainly is an added bonus.
Your six-pack muscle is called the rectus abdominis. Remember those layers of abdominals we talked about? This muscle is the most superficial layer of the abdominals. Its main action is flexing the lumbar spine which bends the spine forward.
Performing trunk flexion exercises like a crunch or sit-up will train this muscle, however, this muscle doesn’t actually technically assist in stabilizing your core. As a result, if you are someone dealing with lower back pain or trunk instability, we will typically not recommend these types of exercises for you!
No matter your lifestyle, core strength is important. That’s why at MAVEN we integrate all sorts of movements and exercises into our training regimen. Contact us to start your core strength training.