You’ve probably heard fitness professionals debate the question, “Why are core muscles important?” From aiding in everyday movement to holding Pilates poses, our abdominal muscles play an important role in stabilization and balance. In addition, a strong core improves our posture and reduces the risk of injury. It’s also a good indicator of overall fitness. We engage our midsections running and lifting weights as we perform various movements on the best yoga mats (opens in new tab)and for activities like surfing, SUP boarding, golf, and dancing.
There are several ways you can strengthen and tone your core. Bodyweight exercises, weight workouts, Pilates, and yoga can help activate these muscles, as can equipment like abdominal machines and the best resistance bands (opens in new tab) can also enhance your workout. But before you trawl the internet in search of fitness equipment, understanding why your core muscles are important and how specific exercises can target them will help you determine the type of workout to add to your routine.
What muscles make up the torso?
“The core actually includes many muscles that run the length of the torso, front and back, including the inner thighs, hamstrings, buttocks, and pelvic floor,” says posture and movement expert Ivana Daniell (opens in new tab). “They create a natural corset that supports our posture.”
The muscles that make up our core can be exercised individually, which is why many abdominal workouts target different areas.
“Your deepest muscle layer is your transversus abdominis,” says exercise physiologist Hayley Edwards. “This muscle stabilizes your spine and protects your internal organs. Second, you have your rectus abdominis, the external muscle that extends from your rib cage to your pelvic bone and allows for flexion. Then you have your external and internal obliques, which sit on the outer right and outer left sides of your body. Finally you have your pyramidalis. This muscle sits low on your pelvis and supports your pubic bone and other abdominal muscles.”
Signs of a weak core
Although we use our core muscles every day, many of us don’t realize how important they are to injury prevention. A study from the Journal of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders (opens in new tab) showed that weak core muscles are associated with chronic back pain and an increased risk of falls, particularly in older women.
“Most neck and back problems are related to weak core muscles,” explains Daniell. “Strong, balanced core muscles help maintain posture and reduce stress on the spine. Training the core muscles also corrects poor posture that can lead to injury.”
A weak core can look like this:
- Lower back pain
- Bad attitude
- bad balance
- difficulty getting up
“The greatest benefit of strengthening core muscles is the development of functional fitness – a form of physical fitness that allows us to go about our daily activities with ease,” says Daniell.
How can you work on strengthening your core?
Now that we’ve figured out, “why are core muscles important?”, how can we strengthen them?
“The most effective way to build core strength is to target the abdominal muscles directly through relevant isolation exercises,” says PT Tom Opper. “This includes crunches, leg raises and planks. Incorporating larger compound movements that engage the core when using weights like squats and deadlifts also strengthens the core.”
Keeping your abs tight and active during exercises can stabilize you, especially during weight movements, but sometimes it can be useful to isolate certain areas of the abdomen.
“For building core strength, the plank is one of the best exercises you can do,” says Opper. “Because the plank requires you to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your toes without ‘collapsing’, it engages and strengthens all areas of your core, from your rectus abdominis (front abs) to your obliques (lateral abs). abdominal muscles). your spinal erectors. If you do the plank correctly, it should be a challenge. You can also reverse the movement by dropping your knees to the floor.”
Another popular core workout is deadbugs. “This is a fantastic exercise for improving your anterior (front) core stability,” says Opper. If we don’t engage our core properly during movements with weights like heavy squats, deadlifts, or overhead presses, the weight can all too easily accumulate in the lower back, which can significantly increase your risk of injury if the back hyperextends.
Finally, it’s important not to neglect your obliques (your lateral abs), which protect your spine while helping to rotate your core. “There are several exercises that build oblique strength and incorporating a variety of movements, such as B. Russian twists and side bends, is important to build a strong, well-rounded core,” says Opper.
Exercises that strengthen the core
“A strong core is a sign of good overall health and also crucial to avoiding injury, especially in old age,” says performance coach Arj Thiruchelvam. “The exercises below can help you strengthen different areas of your core by targeting different abdominal muscles.”
The 90º static hold
This is a difficult isometric exercise. Lie on your back, raise your knees up to 90º and place your hands on your knees. The idea is to push into your knees as hard as you can while your legs resist. They aim to create a balance where there is no movement. Be sure to push as hard as you can. Perform three sets and hold each one for 20 seconds.
This is an exercise for functional and athletic health. First, lie on your back, knees in the air, bent in a 90-degree position so your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Your arms should be pointing up toward the ceiling.
Slowly lower one leg to the floor so that it is hovering just above the floor. At the same time, lower your arm over your head so that it is also hovering just above the floor. Return your limbs to the original position, and then perform the same movement with the opposite arm and leg.
Always keep your lower back in contact with the floor. Walk for three sets of 30 seconds.
Incline barbell crunches
This helps in the development of abdominal folds known as oblique muscles. Stand upright with a barbell across your back muscles. Perform a standing crunch and switch sides you fall on. As you get more confident, crunch deeper and increase the weight of the barbell you’re using. It is very important to keep your back in a straight line. Curves or bulges can lead to injuries. Try three sets of 16 reps.
How many times a week should I do core exercises?
“I typically recommend working on core strengthening exercises two to three times a week, although this may need to be adjusted based on your tolerance, training history, or individual needs,” says Opper. “If you’re already doing a balanced resistance (weight) training program that includes a variety of compound movements, you rarely need to devote a specific session to core work. Instead, you can insert core exercises toward the end of your workout as a finisher or as a “filler” between sets of other exercises, which has the added benefit of “feeling” your core throughout the session.
Abdominal weakness and its association with chronic low back pain and risk of falling in elderly women (opens in new tab)
https://www.livescience.com/why-are-core-muscles-important Why are core muscles important?