Why Is It Important To Strengthen Your Core?

When you think of a strong core, you might picture someone doing lots of crunches for muscle growth. But having strong abs is not just about looks; it makes daily tasks easier and boosts overall well-being.

Core work is central to every movement and goes beyond holding a plank. It’s a vital aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

Building core strength isn’t just about doing endless sit-ups. It’s important to vary exercises, like planks and standing core moves, to get the full benefits of a strong core.

Which muscles make up the core?

Your core isn’t just your abs; it includes various muscles in the front, sides, and back of your lower trunk. Understanding these muscles is crucial because many people mistake which ones make up the core. Here’s a breakdown of the main core muscles:

  1. Abdominals:
  2. Obliques:
    • Internal and External Obliques: Positioned along the sides, they protect the spine and enable rotation.
  3. Back:
    • Quadratus Lumborum: A deep muscle in the lower back, associated with back pain, posture, and mobility.
  4. Pelvic Floor:
    • Houses organs like urethra, bladder, intestines, and more.
    • Includes connective tissues for sexual health, hip stabilization, and basic functions.
  5. Spine:
    • Erector Spinae and Multifidus: Back muscles connected to basic movement through the spine.
  6. Glutes:
    • A group of three muscles in the backside, influencing hip rotation and extension.
  7. Diaphragm:
    • Located at the base of the chest, associated with breathing.
    • Affects digestive function and blood transportation to the heart.

Understanding these muscles helps avoid exercises that may not target the core effectively. Now, let’s explore 11 evidence-backed benefits of core strengthening.

Benefits of a strong core

Why Is It Important To Strengthen Your Core

When we think of core strength, many imagine doing lots of ab exercises. But according to Sarah Walls, a personal trainer from Virginia, core training goes beyond just working the abs. It includes shaping the hips and back, promoting stability and strength throughout the entire core.

1. Promoting Lower Back Stability

To support your lower back, it’s crucial to maintain strong core muscles. A 2017 study highlights the link between aging and a decline in these muscles, especially in overweight older adults. Starting with simple exercises like bridge lifts or toe taps can help strengthen your core back muscles, improve balance, and restore overall physical performance.

2. Boosting Flexibility

Improving flexibility is achievable through a 4-week core strength training program, as shown in a small 2018 study. Specifically targeting muscles like the transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor proved effective in enhancing core stability. This approach benefited both young and older adults by improving movement control and posture reactions.

3. Enhancing Balance for Older Adults

For older adults, incorporating daily core strength exercises can significantly enhance balance, independence, and overall quality of life, according to a 2021 review. If you’re dealing with coordination issues or managing health conditions, working with a certified professional can be beneficial in initiating a well-rounded core training routine.

4. Improving Posture

Apart from reducing stress and boosting flexibility, a 2017 review highlights yoga as a great exercise for strengthening core muscles and enhancing posture. Engaging in various yoga poses activates these muscles, leading to gradual improvements in posture over time.

5. Promoting Optimal Exercise Form

Avoid traditional exercises like crunches and sit-ups, as they can stress the spine. Instead, opt for core exercises like planks, which focus on minimal spinal movement and contribute significantly to better exercise form.

6. Enhancing Overall Stability

Stability is important for everyone, regardless of athletic background. Incorporating core-focused balance exercises into your routine can help with tasks like climbing stairs, lifting heavy objects, and maintaining coordination as you age.

7. Facilitating Everyday Movements

Though inconclusive, a 2011 study suggests that intentional breath control and improved posture through engaging the core may make everyday movements, like bending, lifting, and turning, easier to perform.

8. Alleviating or Preventing Pain

Even for those dealing with chronic pain, core strength training can be beneficial, particularly for back and hip pain. A 2015 review highlights a connection between weakened core muscles and the intensity of back pain, making core exercises a safer alternative for individuals experiencing back pain.

9. Supporting Strength Training Activities

The American Heart Association suggests doing muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week for people of all ages. Core muscles are essential for stabilizing the body’s center, forming a strong foundation for effective weight training.

10. Facilitating Running

Though older studies provide inconsistent results, a 2019 study on male college athletes suggests potential benefits of an 8-week core training program. It may lead to improved static balance, endurance, and running energy levels.

11. Reducing Lower Body Injury Risk

In 2018, research highlighted a connection between core stability and lower extremity injuries. To address deficits in core stability, especially in adults aged 65 and older who have an increased risk of falling, incorporating core strengthening exercises is recommended by the National Institute on Aging.

Simple Core Workouts at Home

You can strengthen your core easily at home without needing much equipment. These exercises focus on your obliques, back, and abdominal muscles, helping you build a strong and happy core.

1. Dead Bug

  • Lie on your back with your legs up, knees bent at 90 degrees, and reach your hands toward the ceiling.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Lower one hand and the opposite foot toward the floor slowly while breathing in.
  • Breathe out as you return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Pro tip: Keep your lower back pressed to the floor to avoid arching.

2. Plank with Shoulder Tap

  • Begin in a push-up position with a flat back and engaged core.
  • Lift one hand and touch the opposite shoulder without twisting your body.
  • Switch hands and repeat.
  • Pro tip: Squeeze your butt and engage your legs to keep your hips level.

3. Half-Kneeling Woodchopper with Dumbbell

  • Start in a half-kneeling position with one knee on the ground and the other at a 90-degree angle.
  • Hold a dumbbell and bring it from your hip to the opposite shoulder in an arcing motion.
  • Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower.
  • Repeat on both sides.
  • Pro tip: Press your front foot into the ground and squeeze your glutes for better engagement.

4. Bird Dog

  • Begin on hands and knees with a flat back.
  • Engage your core.
  • Lift one hand and the opposite leg simultaneously without twisting or shifting your hips.
  • Alternate sides.
  • Pro tip: Push your hand into the floor for a better connection to the opposite leg.

These exercises target various core muscles and can be done at home with minimal equipment. Remember to control your movements and focus on engaging your core for a strong and healthy midsection.

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