The Importance of Core Strengthening

"All physical activity begins with the body's core. I maintain the strength in my core so that I can jump, run, start, stop, and accelerate at the highest levels." Derrick Rose

Throughout the fitness world, emphasis has long been placed on core strengthening. Unfortunately the word core has become synonymous with abdominals, causing many people to mistakenly focus on crunches whilst overlooking the most important set of muscles in our bodies. The core is in fact a complex set of muscles around your trunk, and not limited to your abdominals as many believe.

What is core strengthening?

The core comprises the abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, transverse abdominals and other deep muscles. Core strengthening works on exercising these muscles as well as the back and glutes. Your core is responsible for keeping your body erect and in good posture, while protecting your organs and central nervous system. 

Core muscles

The body’s core comprises five main groups of muscles:

  1. Rectus Abdominus  - Known as the abdominals, these run from the base of the sternum and ribs to the front of the pelvis. The abdominals flex the spine forwards and sideways.
  2.  Obliques – Consist of the internal, transverse and external oblique muscles located on the side towards the lower back and ribs. The obliques help rotate and flex the spine.
  3. Erector Spinae – The eight muscles along the spine starting at the base of the skull to the sacrum. Their role is to assist with posture.
  4. Transverse Abdominus (TVA) – The thin yet wide muscle located horizontally around the abdominals. They create intra-abdominal pressure to provide support to the spine.
  5. Quadratun Lumborum -  A deep muscle at the bottom of the ribs to the fifth lumbar vertebrae to the top of the pelvis. It works with the Erector Spinae to stabilize and flex the spine.

The benefits of core strengthening

Core strengthening has a variety of health benefits including the following:

  1. Healthy back - Core strengthening results in a reduction in back pain whilst reducing risk of injury, as well as mitigating the effects of existing back problems.
  2. Correct posture – As your core muscles strengthen, each muscle takes its rightful place, allowing your back to stabilize.  The result is less strain on your joints which in turn reduces the chances of arthritis and degenerative joint disease.
  3. Reduced injuries – Since all your body movements are centred around the core, having a strong core goes a long way in ensuring that your movements are strong, stable and secure.
  4. Improved balance and stability – A strong core stabilizes your body and helps keep you well balanced.
  5. Improved breathing – The exercises used for core strengthening require breathing from your diaphragm, one of the core muscles.  With deeper breathing comes increased relaxation and stress reduction.
  6. Functional strength – A strong core provides greater functional strength for every day activities and sports.
  7. Weight loss and cairdo – Core training involves a large amount of muscles and is a great fat burner. Core strengthening improves cardio performance and strengthens the heart.

Exercises for core strengthening

Core strengthening cannot be accomplished with crunches alone. Crunches focus only on the abdominal muscles while exercises such as the plank, bridge, side plank, deadlifts, kettlebell exercises, Pilates and squats target all the core muscles.

Did you Know?

No amount of crunches or dieting will give you a 6 pack without a strong core to hold your abdominals in. Are you skinny but have a protruding stomach? Try core exercises and see the difference!