Core strength: A 360 degree perspective

Everyone is always talking about the “core”. Essential for strength, stability, and preventing back pain, we’ve become obsessed with this region of the body, but are we all on the same page with defining what our core is? As you will see, the core is much more than just the ab muscles.

Muscles of the core:

The core is a group of muscles in our trunk that protect the spine while allowing movement in every direction. Defining the core is important for making it stronger. Being able to visualize the different muscles working as you exercise will help you strengthen more effectively.

  • Multifidus-Don’t let its small size fool you. This muscle is located right next to the low spine for a reason. It is vital to spinal support and strength.
  • Scapular stabilizers-Rhomboids, trapezius, levator scapulae, serratus anterior, and rotator cuff muscles keep the shoulder in place while performing movement. The harder the exercise, the harder they work as a team to prevent shoulder injuries. These muscles are considered the “core” of the shoulder.
  • Internal obliques-Allow side to side bending. Provide lateral support to the trunk. Also known as “love handles.”
  • External obliques-Diagonal bending, spinal stability, and abdominal compression.
  • Transverse abdominis-The deepest layer of ab muscles, the transverse acts as a corset and helps to hold in the belly and also stabilizes the pelvis.
  • Rectus abdominis-Commonly known as the “six-pack”, these muscles flex our trunk and help maintain proper posture.
  • Quadratus lumborum-This deep back muscle stabilizes the pelvis and moves the spine in different directions.
  • Psoas-This complex muscle performs a number of functions including holding the spine in alignment and stabilzing the low back.
  • Erector spinae-These long muscles of the low back provide support to the spine and help us stand up straight as well as bend and lift without rounding the back.
  • Pelvic floor-Support the internal organs and help prevent incontinence.
  • Glutes-Gluteus maximus, minimis and medius are all important for stabilizing the hips. Without strong, stable hips, we are unable to safely perform many common exercises.
  • Local places to strengthen your core:

    The core can be strengthened doing almost anything as long as you are aware of your posture and make an effort to move from your center. Here are some examples:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Weight training-at a local gym, at home or even outside
  • Outdoor play (running, jumping, throwing)
  • Swimming
  • Golfing
  • Dancing
  • Pilates
  • Rock climbing-indoors at Pacific Edge, outdoors at Castle Rock or Pinnacles
  • Yoga-local gyms, bikram yoga studios, Nourish
  • Taking classes or working one-on-one with a fitness professional to gain a deeper understanding of your core is invaluable. These muscles work hard every day to prevent injury and optimize physical performance. It takes practice to learn how to use them correctly, but the benefits are well worth it.

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