Your body needs stabilization. Without the proper framework and muscles to keep your body upright, you wouldn’t even be able to do basic day-to-day activities. The muscles involved in keeping you steady and upright are within the core of the body.
What Is the Body’s Core?
Your body’s core is the term used for the group of muscles within your midsection that stabilize your spine and pelvis. Several muscles and groups of muscles make up the core of the body.
They include the:
Erector spinae. The erector spinae are a group of muscles that run up the back from the hips. These muscles can adjust your posture, allowing you to bend forward, bend backward, or stand up straight. They also play a role in helping you bend to the side.
The erector spinae are made up of three sub-groups of muscles: The spinalis muscles are the closest to the spine. The iliocostalis muscles are more distant. The longissimus muscle group sits between them.
Multifidus. The multifidus muscles are a group of thick muscles that run alongside the spine. The multifidus is divided into the cervical multifidus, thoracic multifidus, and lumbar multifidus. They keep the spine stable while you move.
Obliques. You have two types of oblique muscles: internal and external obliques. The outer oblique muscles start midway down your ribcage and stretch to your hips on each side of your body. The internal obliques are nestled underneath them. These abdominal muscles allow you to twist your core and help you bend to the side.
Rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominus muscle is the muscle people are usually referring to when they mention “abs.” This is the muscle that forms a “six-pack” at the front of your core. The rectus abdominis muscle starts midway down your ribs and stretches down the front of your body to your pelvic bone. This muscle allows you to bend forward and curl up. It also helps with breathing and using the bathroom.
Transverse abdominis. The transverse abdominis is a sheet-like muscle that covers the front of the body. It runs from the rib cage down to the pelvis. This is the muscle that allows you to suck your belly button in toward your spine.
What Is Core Stability?
Core stability refers to the way our core muscles help keep our spine straight and stable as we do everyday tasks. These muscles allow us to sit, stand, walk, and do things like shovel snow without pain.
For those who are physically active, core stability also helps prevent injuries due to overuse of muscles. A strong core can make movements smoother and more effective, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury and improving your performance and skill.
Core strength affects more than just posture, though. Your core includes your pelvis, and these muscles can help prevent incontinence.
Weakness in the core can lead to pain and issues all over your body such as the back, neck, and joints like the knees. Your core muscles naturally weaken as you age, but sitting for long periods of time can cause core weakness as well. Luckily, there are many exercises you can try to help strengthen your core muscles.
How to Strengthen Your Core
There are a variety of different exercises you can try to help strengthen your core muscles. Some workouts involve more movement, while others incorporate static holds. These types of exercises usually work best on a carpeted floor or exercise mat.
You may find some types of workouts work better for you than others.
Abdominal crunch. The abdominal crunch is a classic, popular option for strengthening core muscles. To do this move:
- Lie flat on your back on a solid surface.
- Either bend your knees so the bottom of your feet are flat against the floor or place the bottoms of your feet against a wall and bend your knees 90 degrees.
- Use your abdominal muscles to pull your head and shoulders off the floor.
- To avoid straining your neck, cross your arms over your chest and keep your eyes on the ceiling.
- Hold the muscle contraction at the top for three deep breaths.
- Return to your starting position and repeat.
Bridge. The bridge is a great way to work multiple muscles at one time. To do this move:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
- Lift your hips off the floor, pushing through the bottoms of your feet. Try not to arch your back or press it into the floor.
- Hold here for three deep breaths.
- Return to your starting position and repeat
Forward plank. A plank is a static hold move that trains several core muscles. To do a traditional forward plank:
- Get into a traditional pushup position with your elbows directly under your shoulders, your pelvis tilted slightly forward, and your core, back, and buttocks held tight. Your feet should be together.
- Avoid letting your back and hips sag or arch.
- Hold this position as long as you are comfortable.
If a traditional plank is too difficult, you can modify this exercise by resting on your elbows instead of the palms of your hands or on your knees instead of your feet. Beginners may opt to do both.
Side plank. The side plank is another version of a plank. Like the traditional plank, it can be modified to make the move easier or harder. To do a side plank:
- Lie on your side. Balance yourself on your lower arm’s forearm. If you’re lying on your left side, this will be your left arm, and on your right side, your right arm. Your elbow should be lined up directly under your shoulder and bent at 90 degrees.
- Lift your hips off the ground and tighten your abdominal muscles. Your weight should be distributed between your elbow and feet/ankles. Try to lift your hips high enough to maintain a straight line.
- Hold this position as long as you are comfortable.
- To make this move easier, bend your lower leg and put the weight on your knee and leg instead of your foot and ankle. To make it tougher, straighten your arm and balance on your palm instead of your elbow.
Superman. The superman is a move that works your back muscles in particular. To do this move:
- Lie flat on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.
- Lift one arm off the floor, keeping it straight, and hold this position for three breaths.
- Return to the starting position and repeat with the other arm.
- Lift one leg off the floor, keeping it straight, and hold for three deep breaths.
- Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side.
- To increase the difficulty of this move, raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time, then switch.