You likely also know that core exercises and maintaining strong abdominal, back, and other core muscles are important. But did you know that core strength is possibly the most important thing to include in your exercise routine?
A strong core is essential for optimal performance in any activity and sport, but training the core muscles is equally important for individuals who aren’t active. A strong core helps with balance and stability, and can help prevent back injury or low back pain. Essential everyday activities – such as putting on shoes, using the computer, and even sitting — rely on core strength. But these simple actions can become become difficult or painful because of a weak core.
The Core – More than Just Abs
The core consists of more than just the abdominal muscles and core strength goes beyond just developing washboard abs. It actually makes up nearly half of the body and includes all muscles that attach to the pelvis and spine. The muscles of the core include:
- Trapezius – These muscles are located up high, underneath your neck and between your shoulder blades. They connect your spine to your shoulder blades and helps to stabilize the upper body and help with things such as good posture.
- Latissimus dorsi (or, lats) – These giant back muscles link the shoulder blades, upper arms, spine, and pelvis, making them a critical stabilizer for the core — and the entire body.
- Gluteus maximus – These are some of the body’s largest muscles and work in tandem with the gluteus medius. Both of these muscles connect to the pelvis, which means if you’re sitting all day, these muscles will stop firing properly.
- Rectus abdominus (abs) – This is generally what we think of as the main core muscles, and they span the entire side of your torso. These muscles act like a girdle, keeping your core tight, aligned, and protected.
- Hip adductors – These muscles attach to the inside of your pelvis and, like the gluteus muscles, if you sit all day they will become compromised and cause a host of problems.
- Quadratus lumborum – Most of us don’t even know we have these muscles that are located in the lower back — until we fail to exercise them for a long period of time and they start causing pain and discomfort.
- Spinal erectors – These muscles run along your spine from the glutes to the head and help you stand up straight and rotate.
While the sheer number of muscles that actually make up the core may seem overwhelming, the truth is core-strength exercises can be easily done at home and with no equipment — although a regular yoga or Pilates practice can be helpful, too. Not sure where to start? Here are some easy and basic core exercises put together by the Mayo Clinic that anyone can incorporate into their day.
This article first appeared in the April 2018 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.