If you’ve spent any time in the fitness world, then there’s a good chance you’ve heard of core strength.
Even if you haven’t spent much time inside a gym, the term “core strength” is plastered on nearly every fitness magazine cover.
But is all the hype warranted? Yes, actually. Core strength is no passing fitness fad; it’s actually quite important for adults to understand — and practice.
A Look at Core Strength
When most people think of building strength, they think of the classic workouts — the bench press, planks, squats, crunch, biceps curls, and more. And they would be right. These do help build strength.
But core strength often takes a back seat in the normal gym routines, usually because most are unaware of what it actually means and entails. For many, core strength brings up images of rock-hard abs and a sleek midsection.
While a toned outer layer looks good, it doesn’t always correlate to actual core strength. A person can be toned but still be lacking in core strength. Looking strong and being strong is not the same thing.
What Makes the Core?
The “core” refers to a group of muscles that are centered or make up the core of your body. It involves both major and minor muscle groups. Let’s take a quick look at core anatomy.
- External obliques– These oblique muscles are on the front and side of the abdominal wall.
- Internal abdominal oblique – This muscle group is located underneath the external abdominal oblique and runs in opposite directions.
- Transverse abdominis – This is a flat sheet of abdominal muscle located under the oblique, it wraps around the spine and is essential for lumbar support.
- Rectus abdominis – As the classic “abs,” these muscles are located at the front of the abdomen.
While the above makes up the main core muscles, other muscle groups are also involved, such as the erector spinae muscles on the back, the diaphragm, hip flexors and hip muscles, and pelvic floor muscles. The glutes (buttocks) also play a role in building core strength.
The Role of Core Muscles
In short, the core muscles help keep your body stable by balancing the trunk of your body and helping to protect your spine. From a physiological standpoint, they have two primary functions:
- Ease the excessive loads on the spine and back muscles.
- Help transfer force from the lower body to the upper body (and vice versa).
The Importance of Building a Strong Core
In some ways, strong core muscles are less about power and more about building strength in order to maintain good posture and movement with the body.
Also, as core work helps stabilize the body, it also helps ward off back injuries and pain. In fact, injury prevention is one of the main reasons for building core strength.
It isn’t about sculpted abs; it’s about mobility that’s free from pain. Simple everyday tasks like playing on the floor with your kids or sitting comfortably in a chair involve core strength. Weak core muscles can make everyday activities difficult or painful. A weak core can be debilitating over time, especially in terms of lumbar movement.
Having a weak core is associated with lower back pain. In fact, core strength training is often prescribed for those dealing with chronic lower back pain, which is great for those looking to avoid dependency on drugs and OTC medications.
Real-World Benefits of Core Strength
In the real world, our core is the center of nearly all of our daily tasks, whether we realize it or not. Therefore, keeping it strong plays an important role in our quality of everyday life. Here are a few of the benefits of building and maintaining a strong core.
Building core strength helps support better posture. The core muscles wrap around your entire torso, and this includes the back. Poor posture is linked to back and joint pain and can weaken muscles in the hips and pelvis.
Core training helps support your spine and helps keep you upright. This is especially important for those who tend to sit for long periods at a time.
Better Balance and Stability
Core strength leads to core stability, which can boost athletic performance. In effect, core exercises and strong abdominal muscles allow you to work from a solid base. As your core strengthens, it provides better stability for your body, allowing you to move comfortably in any direction without losing balance.
This is essential for aging adults that are prone to stability issues and are at risk for falling.
Better Strength for Outdoor Activities
If you enjoy sports and the outdoors, strength in the abdominal area is essential. It could make the difference between a day spent indoors or a day on the trail.
Most athletic and outdoor activities require adequate core strength — from tennis and baseball to kayaking, core strength, flexibility, and stability are key.
For example, a good core workout, including specific exercises like side planks and Russian twists, can help you achieve six-pack abs that make athletic activities more attainable.
Better Strength for Everyday Activities
Core strength is essential for daily life, even mundane tasks. Lifting, twisting, bending, sitting, standing, and range of motion movements require core strength. So, whether you’re tying your shoe or sitting at your desk, core strength matters.
Better Protect Your Insides
As strange as it may sound, a strong core helps protect your organs. Your liver, kidneys, and spleen are all organs that rest underneath your abdominal wall and core. A stronger core and bigger ab muscles act as shields and protect organs from damage and external force.
Core strength is all the rage in the health and fitness world. But core strength is much more than a fad. Its importance cannot be overstated.
The core is made up of various muscle groups that make up the trunk of the body. They help transfer force between our upper and lower halves and help reduce the strain on our spine.
Building adequate core strength is essential. It not only protects us from injury but also helps improve our quality of life in everyday activities.
Understanding and improving core strength | Harvard Health
Core Anatomy | Learn About Core Muscles | ACE Blog
Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention | NIH
Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain | NIH
Core Strengthening Move for Better Posture | Cleveland Clinic