Why is it important to strengthen my core muscles?

Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
The key to your back is your front. The muscles of the lower back are actually smaller than the muscles of the abdomen and sides. The large rectus muscles in the front and the oblique muscles on your sides -- also known as your core -- stabilize your back and pelvis and, if strong, act to prevent pain. The most important way to prevent low back pain and the misery it causes is to concentrate on your core muscles. Core strength is also vital for all sports from running (runners notoriously have weak core strength) to golf (how do you think Tiger Woods drives the ball so far?). No matter what your sport, you have a weak core only because you do not specifically pay attention to it.

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The core (lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, thoracic and cervical spine) is the body’s center of gravity and the starting point of all movement. A strong, stable core has the ability to control changes in the center of gravity and sets the stage for proper muscle balance and efficient movement. If the core is weak the movements will be unstable and forces will not be transferred properly which can lead to low back pain and injury. A well designed core training program targets the core muscles improving stabilization, strength, power, muscle endurance, and neuromuscular control.

The "core" is where all movement starts, and it is our body’s center of gravity. It consists of 29 different muscles that attach at the lumbo-pelvic hip complex. Having a strong core is important for the transfer of strength and power from the lower extremities into the upper body. Having a weak core will increase your chances of hip, low back, neck, shoulder, and knee pain.

A easy way to incoporate core training into your workouts is to perform integrated movements while on your feet, using all planes of motion. This means that you should mimic movements that you would normally do throughout your daily routine. Do not use stationary machines at the gym because they will deactivate your core stabilizer muscles. Free weight and body weight exercises will increase core strength and stabilization.

When people think of core training they most often think that they need to only do situps. When I think of core training I think of pullups, pushup variations, squats, dead lifts, lunge variations, rowing, jumping, sprinting, plyometrics, and plank variations, just to name a few! These exercises call upon many muscles to work at one time to produce movement, which is how the human body works efficiently.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.