What is your ‘core’ and why is it important?
There’s no specific definition of what the body’s ‘core’ is, but it’s usually a reference to the abdominal muscles. Fitness trainers place a major emphasis on exercises to strengthen your core.
Your ‘core’ includes both the front and back muscles of the entire trunk and consists of the muscles running up your back and stretching down to your rear, as well as those located in the front and inside of your thighs.Those muscles are important because that’s where much of your body’s strength is focused. You use those muscles to lift something heavy, to kick a can down the street, or even to just stand up.
The most important role of ‘core’ muscles, however, is their support of the spine. After all, the spine isn’t a stable structure all on its own. Your ‘core’ muscles forms your posture.
Why do you need exercises to strengthen your core?
Since your ‘core’ muscles expedite movement and enfold not only your spine but your organs and nervous system, strengthening them is essential. Important reasons for firming up your ‘core’ include:
- To protect your central nervous system, your internal organs, and your spine. You need a strong sheath around your systems to keep them where they’re supposed to be in order to function properly. ‘Core’ muscles help keep unwanted pressure off your spine so their condition directly affects your quality of life.
- To help prevent injuries from movement. Your ‘core’ serves as a natural stabilizer for intricate movement. A strong ‘core’ means the deep muscles near your spine are built up to provide that stability. If your ‘core’ is fit, you’ll experience an overall fitness, making it less likely you’ll be injured by the movements your life requires.
- To help avoid back pain. Because there are so many muscles to contract and relax when you stand up and move, back pain is relatively common. If your tendons and ligaments and muscles are healthy, your back will normally be fine. But weak muscles, poor posture or excess weight can cause a strain that becomes back pain. Even if your back is strong, if your abdominal muscles are weak you can still get back pain. Your ‘core’ strength needs to be balanced.
- To develop a confident posture. A strong ‘core’ provides a good posture. A straight posture not only looks confident, but it also gives you a sense of control over your body and how you feel about yourself.
A few exercises to strengthen your core muscles
You can accomplish ‘core’ training without major workout equipment and it doesn’t require a great commitment of time. A lot can be achieved in just 10 minutes a day, going for quality rather than quantity.
Remember, there’s already an inherent strength in your ‘core’ muscles. After all, they attach to prime places in your body because they’re designed to support your ‘core’! They’re close to your joints, and are such a refined leverage system that if they’re properly used, there’s little effort needed to get a bunch of work done.
Some good exercises to start with:
1. Your deepest abdominal muscles are the Transverse Abdominis (TA).
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your stomach and slide the other hand beneath your lumbar spine. Allow that natural curve to remain; don’t flatten your spine to the floor! Breathe deeply and let your stomach rise while your diaphragm pulls in oxygen. Exhaling, don’t let the pressure change on the hand under your back. Work your TA without letting your spine flatten.
Now use your TA to stabilize your body. Get on your hands and knees with your arms straight down below your shoulders and your thighs straight down below your hips. Extend one leg back and don’t rotate the leg. In fact, you shouldn’t feel any hip rotation. Center your attention on the inside of the leg; you’ll feel energy flowing along it. Once you feel stable, extend the opposite arm while keeping your spine straight. Stay in that position and take some deep breaths. Repeat on other side and do five repetitions on each side.
2. Two small but basic pieces of exercise equipment to help you build stability are stability balls and balance discs.
They generate unstable environments that your body has to work around in order to gain balance and orientation. The muscles have to keep shifting and reorienting around the ‘core’, forcing the TA and the rest of the deep trunk muscles to keep you oriented. Within just two weeks, a few minutes a day using the ball or disc will really improve your balance!
3. Strengthening your ‘core’ connections is important.
Lie on your back with legs open and arms extending out to the side. Don’t let your shoulders hunch up. Breathe deeply. Exhale then close your limbs (head, tailbone, legs, and arms) into your ‘core’ all at once to bring you into a fetal position on one side. Breathe deeply again, exhale and open your limbs back up into the position you started from. This exercise helps you feel how your body connects to your ‘core’, and it allows the ‘core’ to actually initiate the movement.
4. Stretching into your balance.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched straight in front of you, place your feet in a “V” shaped position and point your toes. Tighten your ‘core’ muscles. Maintaining your leg and body position, lift your arms up and use them to climb an invisible rope. Twist your body a little each time you reach up. Reach as high as you can, drawing your arm completely down to your body each time you ‘pull’ yourself up. Complete 20 reaches for each arm.
5. A side crunch worth the effort.
Do a ‘side balance crunch’, starting with your left knee and hand on the floor while your right leg is up and extended straight out in line with your body and your right arm is extended straight up. It’s a great balancing act! Now pull your right knee in toward your body and when it’s bent, bring your right elbow down toward your bent knee. Straighten them again. Do 10 of those and switch to the other side.
Building health from the inside out includes taking care of the muscles that support your bones and joints and organs. You’ll not only move with confidence, when you feel fit you’ll exude confidence!
If you’d like personal assistance with exercises to strengthen your core muscles, we can help. Our team of exercise physiologists can develop a personalized training program for you. Not only will they you target your core muscles, but they will help you strengthen any other muscles or problem areas.
For more information, contact Texas Spine & Wellness in Garland, TX at (972) 840-2520. We have the staff and resources to help you accomplish your goals.