It’s no secret that most of us desire a flat, toned midsection; think beyond how great this looks, and look a little deeper. When we think of core strength, we too often think of social media’s washboard abs and deeply trimmed waists.
But the core is much more complex and far more functional than aesthetic; just think of that word “core” and its meaning as the most central and integral part of anything.
Let’s begin with a brief anatomy lesson that will illustrate what the core really is, and how critical it is to athletic performance.
Core Anatomy Muscles
- Moving from our torso’s surface inwards, the first muscle is the rectus abdominus (think washboard, 6-pack, 8-pack, etc.), which flexes the trunk.
- Now envision your back; the erector spinae causes the opposite movement (standing up straight).
- The muscles to the sides and beneath the transverse abdominus provides our twisting motion (think basketball, football, martial arts) and is performed by the internal and external obliques.
- Bending our trunk over to each side is performed by these obliques, as well as the sides of the rectus abdominus.
- Now, think deeper; that innermost layer of muscle on the front of your trunk is the transverse abdominus; engage this muscle by exhaling and pulling your belly button in towards your spine.
- In addition, spinal stability is aided by a muscle known as multifidus.
- And finally, the pelvic floor contains muscles that contribute to the core, but given their complexity, they are a topic for another time.
What Is the Purpose of the Core Muscles?
So, the core muscles serve to move the trunk, take some of the load from the spine, and most importantly for sports; they help transfer force between our upper body and lower body and provide us with that firm, unyielding, athletic stance.
A robust and flexible core will help you prevent a fall, support your body with excellent posture, and improve your overall athletic performance. The core provides the stable starting point for the limb’s movements; imagine “setting” or engaging your core before any action and initiating your movement from this strong foundation.
I find it helpful to imagine that my energy is deeply centered within my core. I activate this energy by activating my core, and then, with power, I explode that energy out through my limbs’ actions.
All actions begin with a strong core as it is the power center and a significant link in the body’s musculoskeletal chain of movement.
When you think of sports that involve pushing, kicking, punching, pulling, lifting, throwing, twisting, or balance, all require a strong core. Yes, this list does include nearly every sport imaginable.
That list describes elements in most sports; it also describes most actions in daily life.
How to Strengthen Core Muscles
A strong core is needed for a functional, independent life, and training these muscles must be based on functional exercises.
To do this, challenge your balance with balance boards, stability balls, yoga, and foam rollers.
If your center of power, your core, is weak, it will be the weakest link in your chain of movement. For peak sports performance, the torso must be strong and flexible as it will then allow for powerful and dynamic movement patterns.
Core Strengthening Exercises
Functional exercises to train your core is easy to do anywhere and require little to no equipment.
- Resistant loop bands, such as those provided by Physix Gear Sport, give a killer core workout.
- Many of the exercises that can be done with these bands train multiple abdominal muscles at once, providing exercises that target core strength, stability, and power.
- Your Physix Gear Sport loop band purchase, which comes in strengths from 10 to 120 pounds, includes a free e guide!
- Post core training, pamper yourself with a self-massage using a Physix Gear Sport massage ball to ease out any muscle tension, improve circulation, and reduce soreness.