Health & Fitness
The core is a much talked about but often misunderstood aspect of the human body. What is this mystical inner core and why is it so important?
The core is exactly as it sounds. Just as the core of the apple is the centre most part of the fruit, your core is essentially the centre of your being; deep inside the abdomen close to the spine. The inner core, yes your core even has a core, is made up primarily of the pelvic floor, cervical flexors, transverse abdominis, and diaphragm. The outer core is primarily comprised of the posterior abdominal wall, the anterior abdominals, the spinal erectors, lats, hip flexors, and gluteal muscles surrounding the hips. The core engages and works to protect the spine during any bodily movements and even during breathing by preventing excessive movement of the spine in any direction, but the core also works to stabilize and protect other more specific movements of the body. Many people confuse the rectus abdominus (six-pack muscles) with the core, while the much coveted six-pack is actually the most superficial of the core muscles.
Having a strong and well formed core can improve posture, balance, stability, flexibility, and overall strength as well as create that vacuum effect with the trunk causing you to look thinner and leaner. It is incredibly important for longevity and complete physical health. Gaining control of the core means integrating the trunk, pelvis, and shoulder girdle and encouraging the entire body to work together as one. Once core strength and stability increase you will quickly find that other aspects of your fitness regimen improve. From cardio to weight lifting to stretching, everything will become more manageable. Going beyond the areas of fitness, these muscles that protect your spine are arguably the most critical muscles in the body as they are responsible for quite literally keeping you upright and keeping the burden of supporting your entire body’s weight from being placed only on your bones and joints.
The difference between simply training your abdominals for strength and training your entire core is that abdominals (crunches on the ground without proper engagement) works only the front side (anterior) while the core (crunches balancing on a stability ball) works the front and backside of the body. You can integrate core training into any exercise you already do to be adding some instability. For example, try squatting or light to moderate weight lifting while on a bosu ball or wiggle cushion and you will very quickly feel those deep innermost muscles engaging and working to keep your balance and help you stay upright. You can also practice engaging your core while relaxing and then while doing any kind of fitness activity. To engage the core: draw your bellybutton straight back towards your spine, but also keep your ribs moving downwards and hugging in towards your hips, and then pulling your pelvic floor (commonly known as kegel muscles) upwards. Feel how this alone is actually a lot of work, but it creates an immediate belt or corset feeling allover your midsection. Now make sure to breathe!
The term “core” has become quite a buzzword, especially in the fitness industry, but it is actually crucial to your entire physical well being that you gain an understanding of what the core really is, how it works, how to engage and strengthen it, and the enormous importance of doing so!