The core is more than your abs! The core consists of several muscle groups, including your abdominals, pelvic floor, diaphragm, back extensors, and hip flexors. In all, 20 or more muscles surrounding your trunk, including your abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors.
Our core provides stability to the trunk for balance, plus movements like lifting weights and standing up from a chair. It also provides mobility to allow your torso to move as needed, such as when you reach for your seatbelt or swing a golf club.
Every time you exhale and inhale, your diaphragm plays a large part in allowing air to flow into and out of your lungs. When you sit up straight, your core muscles contract to keep your trunk upright.
The rectus abdominis, also known as the six-pack muscle, attaches from the lower ribs to the front of the pelvis. Statically, it stabilizes your trunk. For example, when you’re doing pushups, it keeps your pelvis and trunk level.
The primary movement it performs is bringing the shoulders toward the pelvis, such as when you sit up in bed or perform a crunch.
Internal and external obliques
The internal and external obliques attach on the lateral sides of the trunk from your ribs to your pelvis. Statically, they provide stability to the front and sides of the trunk.
Their primary movements involve trunk rotation, such as when you swing a baseball bat, and side bending.
The transverse abdominus attaches from the lower spine under the ribs and around the body to the rectus abdominis. It’s the deepest of the abdominal muscles, and its job is to tighten up and provide support to the spine.
The pelvic floor muscles attach to the underside of the pelvis. These muscles start and stop the flow of urine and feces.
The diaphragm attaches to the underside of your lower ribs. It’s responsible for breathing in and out.
Our back extensors are multilayered muscles, including the erector spinae muscles, quadratus lumborum, and multifidi. They attach along the spine to the pelvis. Their job is to support the spine when you’re bending forward and lifting loads, such as during heavy squats or the bicep curl.
Hip flexors include the psoas and iliacus muscles. They attach to the spine and inside of the pelvis. They bring your legs toward your torso, such as when you do high knee exercises.
What the Core Does
Our core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. Core strength is the ability to produce force with respect to core stability, which is the ability to control the force we produce.
It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and then dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability.
EXAMPLES OF CORE EXERCISES YOU CAN PRACTISE AT HOME
- Start lying on back with with your arms extended overhead on floor and legs straight resting on mat.
- At the same time, and with control, lift arms, head, shoulder blades, and legs off the floor.
- Hold for 20 seconds then return to starting position
- Have adequate rest and go again for a total of 2-3 sets.
- Don’t arch your back. Keep it sealed to the mat even if that means lifting your legs and arms higher until your core is stronger.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Keep your trunk and pelvis together as you squeeze your buttocks and lift them off the ground.
- Hold for a count of five.
- Relax and trunk to the ground. Repeat.
- Begin in a pushup position on your hands and toes. If this is too difficult, you can support yourself on your knees and elbows.
- Draw your abdomen toward your spine and keep your buttocks in line with your body. You should feel all the muscles in your abdomen working.
- Hold this position for 20–60 seconds.
The Side Plank
- Turn on your side with your elbow on the ground and one foot on top of the other.
- Lift your hip into the air so that your side is perpendicular to the ground and you’re supporting yourself on your forearm and the side of your foot.
- Maintain good alignment of your feet, hips, and elbow. Also, keep your shoulder over your elbow. You should feel the obliques in your lower side working.
- Hold this position for 20–60 seconds.
The bird dog
- Kneel on your hands and knees as if you’re a table.
- Flatten your back without arching up or sinking in.
- Start by reaching one arm out in front of you so that it’s even with your head and torso.
- Then extend the opposite leg out, in line with your torso and arm. Make sure to keep your hips facing down toward the floor, rather than turned out toward the side. You should feel the muscles in your abdomen and back working.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then repeat with the opposite arm and leg..
The dead bug
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
- Tighten your abdominals and keep your back flat as you lift your knees so that your hips and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly tap one toe to the ground and return.
- To increase the difficulty level, extend your arms straight up over your shoulders. As you lower one foot down to the ground, reach the opposite arm back overhead, keeping your lower back on the floor and your ribs pulled in.
- Only extend your leg as far as you can while keeping your back flat.
- Return and switch sides.
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