What is core exercise?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Core exercises are those that use your trunk without support, like push-ups, sit-ups, and abdominal crunches. These exercises strengthen and train your lower back, hips, abdomen and pelvis to work together for better balance and stability. Core exercises can be done anywhere, without special equipment, and in small spurts.

Core exercises are any exercises that challenge the muscles that make up the torso, spine and pelvis, the area of the body that must stabilize the spinal column and hips and pelvic region, which are your base of support for all movements and actions. Nearly any exercise in which the body is not being supported is and can be a core exercise. For example, instead of doing a bench press on a bench or a machine, performing the same movement on a physioball requires you to activate muscles in the stomach, spinal column, hips, and pelvis to balance and stabilize the body. A push up is another example of a core exercise because the back, and abdominal muscles must contract to keep the spine straight as you perform the push-up.  

The point of core exercises is to train the many large and small muscles that help control and stabilize the spinal column and pelvis to build endurance and strength and be better able to control the spine and pelvis when forces are applied to it during daily activities and physical activities. Core exercises can and should be incorporated into every workout you perform each time you exercise. This can be accomplished by performing as many exercises as possible while having your spine and pelvis unsupported by a bench or seat. This will require the core muscles to engage to stabilize the body.

Core exercises can be integrated into any body part you train. &nbsp;First by definition your core is everything except your arms and legs. &nbsp;So it is your entire spine and pelvis. &nbsp;<br /><br />You can make a chest exercise a core exercise. For example instead of performing a chest press on a machine where your back would be supported by the back pad you could do a standing cable press. &nbsp;With this exercise you are not being artificially supported by a machine so you will have to work your core harder to maintain your standing position. &nbsp;These types of exercises are classified as core stability exercises. &nbsp;The goal of these exercises are to increase the muscular endurance of the smaller muscles that support your spine.<br /><br />Traditional exercises such as crunches, reverse crunches, and back extensions are core strength exercises. &nbsp;These types of movements increase the overall strength of your core.<br /><br />The final type of core exercises are power exercises. Examples of a core power exercise would be a medicine ball throw. &nbsp;The goal here is to increase the rate at which you can fire the muscles in your core. &nbsp;These types of exercises are great for anyone who plays sports of any kind. &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br />To create a well rounded core program you should perform core stability exercises for about 4 weeks before moving into core strengthening exercises for roughly 4 weeks, and then from there you would be ready for the core power exercises. &nbsp;It is best if you take these phases of core training in this progressive manner. &nbsp;If you jump to fast into the strength or power phases before you create good stability you increase the risk of injury. &nbsp;&nbsp;

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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.