When it comes to a fit physique, abdominal muscles are all the talk.
Sure, nice biceps and shoulders look good in a tank top and shapely legs allow you to pull off those new pair of jeans, but a solid midsection pulls the whole thing together- literally!
Having a strong core does much more than give you rock-solid abs, it is the reason you are able to pull yourself up in the morning.
You can’t do anything without activating core muscles!
Sitting up with beautiful, royal-like posture takes your core muscles to elongate and stabilize you.
My mom always said, maintaining good posture can make you look 10 pounds thinner, and she is right.
You also need your core to do everyday activities like walking around the mall, bending over to tie your shoes, and reach for that pie pan you keep meaning to move to a more convenient spot.
“That’s because your core muscles are the base of support for your entire body,” Meredith McHale, P.T., D.P.T., regional clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy said to Shape.
Working your core will allow you to lift heavier, move faster, and do it all with less risk of injury.
It was even found by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that runners who built up their core strength for six weeks were able to run faster in a 5,000 meter run.
The core makes up more than just your abs.
Your core is more than skin deep, and more than one muscle deep.
The transverse abdominis muscle is the deepest layer, pulling everything in to give you a waist and keeping your organs in that area safe.
On the sides of the transverse muscle are two layers of oblique muscles, which “control lateral flexion and other spinal movements,” according to Shape.
Then laying on top is your reclusive abdominis, which is what gives your midsection a 6-pack look when worked.
But it goes further than that!
The core is more than your abs, it is all the stabilizing muscles around your midsection to include your pelvic floor muscles, the back muscles, and your diaphragm, explains McHale.
When you reach for your water bottle at your desk, you are using your core. When you pick up your child to do the Superman for the millionth time, you are using your core. When you go into a baking frenzy and stir 6 bowls of batter, you are using your core.
You get the idea!
“A strong core helps keep a more upright and erect posture whether you’re being active or just sitting at your desk,” says McHale.
How do you work this crucial group of muscles?
In essence you are working your core when you do any type of exercise because you need them to keep you secure while you move other parts of the body.
“Typically, the core muscles fire or activate prior to us doing an activity. Our nervous system anticipates the activity, and braces for support, really, when we go to do anything. If you don’t have that core stability and support acting as a brace or a girdle for your spine, you’re likely going to compensate with other muscles.”
But there is a way to narrow in on this select muscle group to get the results and function you want from your body.
The first way is to maintain proper form in your fitness routine. Don’t sag your butt when you are in a plank position and tighten your whole pelvic floor when performing abdominal exercises.
Russian twists and leg raises are popular core strengthening moves, but you need to be careful not to do them every day or too many repetitions because the repeated flexion and rotation of the spine can result in injury.
Moves most people incorporate into their workout routine such as push-ups and squats are great for the core, because your core has to activate to maintain good form.
If you are looking for a more challenging move to crank up your core strength, try Turkish get-ups.
Start out lying on the floor with a light weight in one hand at your shoulder. Extend your arm toward the ceiling and then keep moving up off the floor to a standing position with the weight over your head.
Go back to a lying position and repeat on both sides.
Recognizing how much you use your core muscles is a great start to working them.
And now that you know the functionality of the core, you can hopefully appreciate your abs for more than a vanity point- or the bane of your fitness journey.