Often times people think of core muscles and core exercises as the muscles that make up the torso and the exercises that work this area respectively. While this is true, the core is better defined as the muscles in and around the hips and spine and the muscles that connect the hips and spine to the extremities. Working the core does not simply mean doing abdominal, oblique, and lower back exercises. To get a strong core we need to work all of the muscles that make up the core. This is important because a strong core is not only sexy, it also serves as the foundation of all human movement. A strong core means better performance, better balance, better posture, and yeah – if you eat right too – better abs.
To understand how complex the core is, let’s take a look at the 3 major components of the core: The local stabilization system, the global stabilization system, and the movement system.
The Local Stabilization System involves the muscles that stabilize the spine. These muscles support vertebrae for posture. The muscles include the abdominals, portions of the oblique muscles, muscles around the lumbar spine, small muscles between the pelvis and spine, and the diaphragm.
The Global Stabilization System involves the muscles that provide stability for the pelvis and spine together, and stabilize the body during other functional movement. These muscles include the abdominals, portions of the oblique muscles, muscles around the hips called adductors, portions of the gluts (butt), and small muscles between the spine and pelvis.
The Core Movement System involves muscles that attach the spine and pelvic to the extremities of the body. These include the quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), Latissimus dorsi (commonly called “lats” – the muscle that connects the spine to outer portions of the back), and the hip flexors.
So you can see working the core means doing more than crunches. It is important to hit all of these muscles. It might seem like a lot of work to get all of these different muscles in during one workout. Don’t worry, you can tackle most of the muscles mentioned above fairly quickly. A lot of the muscles work together during certain exercises, so you are working multiple muscles at the same time.
It is important to regularly include core exercises in your training regimen. It helps not only with getting that six pack, but with all parts of the body. You’ll have better stabilization strength when you squat, better support strength when you lift weights over your head, better form when you are getting those last few push ups in, and more. Beyond the gym, a strong core is essential for everyday activity such as good posture when walking, improved athletic performance, occupational function and posture (especially where manual labor or periods of standing are involved) – essentially anything that involves movement.