Anyone who is making an effort to get in shape, exercise and develop a better body thinks about their core. Your "core" refers to the muscles around your midsection and pelvis, which support your abdominal wall, hips, spine, lower back and diaphragm.
When we think about working and building our core, most of us focus on a muscle called the rectus abdominis. This is of course the much-coveted "six-pack" area of your abdomen area most aspire to have. Interestingly, the basic function of your rectus abdominis plays just one part in the overall benefit of core strength. The primary purpose of your rectus abdominis — besides protecting your abdomen area — is to pull the shoulders toward the hips.
Your core and its many muscle groups play an overall supporting role of stabilizing movement protecting your spine, internal organs and giving you better overall body strength. When you start to look at what your body is doing when being active, it becomes clear that core stability is an essential function for proper posture, movement, endurance and athletic performance. For people training for specific athletic activity, it is important to remember many of the required movements of runners, swimmers, cyclists and body builders are highly dependent on proper core development.
Developing a comprehensive and consistent core strength regimen is not easy. Some of the very best fitness trainers tend to miss key muscle groups that tie back to a strong, well-rounded core. There are many schools of thought about how to get the best overall results from core strength training, mixing various forms of exercise like yoga, CrossFit, exercise ball, planks, hundreds of sit-ups or crunches and so on.
It is important to completely understand your core musculature. This must include your lumbopelvic-hip complex, which supports your lumbar spine, pelvic girdle, abdomen and hip. Other muscles that must be factored into a solid core workout are your psoas, hip flexors, pelvic floor, latissimus dorsi and gluteus maximus which are often not considered core-related. Since your center of gravity resides in your midsection, it is dependent on all stabilizing muscle groups from your legs to upper back for proper movement and posture.
As you develop your core training, it is important to expand your view of which muscles to include. Here is a list of the primary commonly identified core muscles:
These common core muscle groups can be included into a daily workout program and many trainers tell you to work them every day. Yes, you can work your core daily but keep in mind it can lead to muscle imbalances and posture problems so it is best to work key sets of core muscles with other muscle groups. Working with a good certified personal trainer can help you define your different muscle groups to work together, then help you develop good form and proper repetition.
If you're a runner, cyclist, triathlete or anyone striving for peak performance then core strength is an essential aspect of your overall training. Only when you have a strong core can your body truly function properly and reduce the strain on your spine, legs, reduce joint stress, potential injuries and maximize your competitive edge.
Also keep in mind if your goal is to sculpt your body and have defined abs, waist and back, the rule of thumb is to focus on 70 percent of what you eat and the rest is 30 percent exercise. The only way to get a great six-pack, waist and low back is to reduce subcutaneous fat, which resides between your skin and abdominal wall, waist and other areas.
If a personal trainer is not something you can do, I recommend getting a good book on core strength training. Here are a few that I think are pretty good to set you on the right path to a solid core workout and development.
Once you get your core strength in place, you will be amazed at how much stronger you will be and feel — whether it's walking, running or doing more extreme athletic activities, it's all central to the core.
A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.