What Is ‘The Core’ & Why Is It So Important?

Strengthen your core! Strengthen your core! Fitness professionals shout this advice from the rafters. But in order to strengthen your core, it’s essential to understand what exactly “the core” is. Otherwise, how can you focus on strengthening something that seems as tangible as an elephant made out of clouds?

So what is the core? Most people would say it’s your abs—that elusive six pack. Yes, that’s true, but it encompasses so much more than that.

The core includes all the major muscles that keep your body stabilized. In addition to your outer abdominals, this includes your gluteals, hips and inner thighs, lower back and deep abdominal layers. The core keeps your legs pulled inward in a straight line while running, your spine in line while lifting heavy objects and acts as a powerhouse for large movements.

Pretty much, any muscle that attaches to your pelvis at one point is a core, powerhouse muscle.

And core strength doesn’t just mean your muscles are strong. A powerful core has strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control and function. Healthy muscles are both strong and flexible. Being just strong or flexible leads to imbalance and injury. It is important for a muscle to be versatile—not too loose, but not stiff and rigid.

Why does the average person need a strong core? With a strong core, the body is less likely to succumb to physical injury. The core acts as a support system to protect your precious spine, a column of essential nerves, from injury during simple, day-to-day tasks. Besides assisting in all physical activities and exercises, a strong core also encourages proper posture, better balance and stability in daily tasks and even an improved sex life.

So, what are you supposed to be doing when a professional tells you to engage your core? A good start is to draw your belly button gently in towards your spine and slightly up. This wakes up your transverse abs, a sheet of horizontal muscle that runs around your middle and acts as a natural corset. It also puts your focus on allowing your movement to come from your deep center, rather than the more frequently utilized muscles of your appendages.

Ready to put your core to work? Pilates is very core-intensive and worth a try. For at-home exercisers, here are three great core exercises to get you started:

Perfect plank.

Plank. One of the most accessible and powerful core workouts, planks are an easy exercise to fit into your daily schedule. For beginners, start with your hands beneath your shoulders in a push-up position. Hold for ideally 60 to 120 seconds, keeping your navel drawn in, shoulder blades sliding down the back, hips in a straight line from the shoulders, and breath steady. If that’s easy, try the same thing on your elbows, with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders.

Reverse crunch. Lie on your back with your legs up toward the ceiling, over your hips. Draw your navel gently towards the floor. Lift just your pelvis off the floor, and then control it back to the ground. It will only lift a few inches at most if you’re doing it properly. Repeat 10-15 times and do 1-3 sets.

Perfect side plank.

Knee side plank. Lie on your side on your weight on your elbow, with your arm bent at a 90 degree angle and your forearm perpendicular to you. Keep your body in a straight line and your knees on top of each other, bent. Placing your top hand on your top hip, and lift your hips in the air to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Your weight should be on your knee and your elbow (which is directly below your shoulder). For a more difficult version, lift your knees and make a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for 30 to 120 seconds, making sure your hips don’t start to dip. Repeat on other side.

When performing these exercises, make sure you are breathing. Exhaling especially can allow you to access your core a little more deeply. Plus, breathing brings more oxygen into your muscles and bloodstream, allowing you to work most efficiently. The core, like a healthy lifestyle, is not comprised of just one component. It includes a multitude of components—breath, various muscle groups, flexibility, strength and balance. Keep yours healthy and it will pay off for years to come.

Related:
How to Master Foam Rolling: Your Muscles Will Thank You
3 Green Energy Bars You Can Feel Good About
Fun Outdoor Exercises That Don’t Feel Like Work

149 comments

Lesa D
Lesa D16 days ago

thank you Jordyn...

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Alice L
Alice L16 days ago

thank you

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Mike R
Mike R2 months ago

Thanks

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Danuta W
Danuta W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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lynda l
lynda leigh10 months ago

The core, like a healthy lifestyle, is not comprised of just one component.

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Marija M
Marija M10 months ago

tks

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W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

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William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thanks.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O1 years ago

This is so good thank you very much.

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Elisa F
Elisa F2 years ago

Thanks :)

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