Almost every day, we hear about strengthening our core from our chiropractors, trainers, fitness instructors or physical therapists, but how many of us really understand what this commonly used word actually means? What is core?
What Is Core?
Your core muscles are more than just your abs. They are a complex series of muscles that are involved in almost all of your body’s movements. These muscles help stabilize you and transfer force. The core muscles are deeper than the exterior muscles that you might typically train and include the transverse abdominals, diaphragm, multifidus, and the pelvic floor muscles along with larger muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. They also include other smaller back and abdominal muscles. The proper ratios between these muscles and their relationships are what make for a healthy core.
The reason the core is so important is that core muscles protect your spine and its surrounding musculature. Core muscles allow for stabilization—athletes with a higher core stability have a lower risk of injury. The core muscles work with other areas of the body. For example, if a baseball player is reaching way out to catch a ball, the core muscles in the center of his body keep him from falling over.
Health Benefits of a Strong Core
Why do you want a strong core? Your core is more than having a flat stomach. It can help you function in the world, and maintain your independence as you age. A strong core helps with the following:
- Basic living like bathing, dressing and tying shoes
- Tasks around the house like climbing ladders, gardening and crouching under sinks.
- Reducing back pain
- Helping in racquet and ball sports
- Better overall sports performance
- Doing exercises to strengthen core gives stress to bones, and this increases bone density
- Better sex
- Helping you chase kids around
- Better muscles for kayaking and rowing
- Keeping you from losing balance
- Preventing injuries
- Helping maintain good posture
Many people think that when they are doing crunches that they are working their core, however more functional full-body movements like push ups, overhead squats, deadlifts, doing lower abdominal work, leg lifts, and even pushing/pulling a paddle through water while stand-up paddle boarding provide much more gains in strength, better body function, efficiency in movement, and long-term health. That’s what engaging your core is about.
Here are just a couple of ideas for strengthening your core muscles for overall better stability, strength, flexibility, endurance, motor control and function:
- Bosu work
- A balance board
- Add balance challenge to any weight or Thera-band exercises by standing on a Bosu or balance board
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Kickboxing and other martial arts
Another idea is to follow a core strengthening fitness program designed to target those muscles. The BeFit 30-day 6 Pack Abs program is part of an overall abdominal strengthening program that will also work the exterior muscles that you see. Following a program will keep you on track and from getting bored. It can also help inspire you when you run out of ideas. Maintaining a healthy weight while combining abdominal exercises with other full-body functioning movements, including the ones listed above, will help improve your overall core/abdominal function and your appearance. Whether you are trying to look good at the beach, improve your performance on the field or just get rid of that nagging back pain, your core is at the, well, core of making that happen.