What is core exercise?

JC Pinzon

Core exercises include movements that activate a group of muscles called the core. These muscles work as a group to help stabilize and control the spine. The muscles are located on the midsection of the trunk and are mostly deep muscles. Activation of these muscles is possible by recruiting the right fibers in the movement. Physical Therapists and Pilates instructors are trained on how to teach to activate these important muscles.

Training the core muscles will prevent injuries and teach you good mechanics when either working or exercising properly. One of the most used core exercises is the plank. It is an isometric contraction but the muscles are working. Try regular and side planks to increase your core first before graduating to harder core exercises. The main core muscles include the transverse abdominus, obliques and erector spinae, but there are many other muscles that can be considered as core.

Core exercise are exercises that focus on either the stabilzation, endurance or strengthening of the core muscles. Core exercises focus on the abdomen, the lower abdomen and hips, the obliques, stabilizing muslces, the spine and the back muslces, as well as the butt. Core exercises train these muscles to work together properly to maintain proper balance, agility, posture and movement to help the body move efficiently as well as preventing injury.

Some examples of core exercises are the plank hold, side plank, floor bridge, bicycle crunches, reach throughs, push ups, back extensions and a number other exercises that focus on the trunk of the body.


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.

The body's core consists of the lumbo-pelvic hip complex and the thoracic and cervical spine which is also the body's center of gravity.  In layman's terms the core consists of everything from your upper abs right above the rib cage to right below the gluteus to include the fron and back of the body.

A core exercise is an exercise that targets any one of the 29 muscles found in the core.  The core is made up of two systems: stabilization and movement.  When performing core exercises you want to stabilize before attempting movement.

Stabilization muscles include internal and external obliques, lumbar, and pelvic floor muscles.  An example of a stabilization exercise is the supine bicycle.  Movement muscles include the erector spinae (lower back center above glutes), hip adductors and abductors (inner and outer thigh).  An example of a movement exercise would be the squat.



Mark Levine

Core exercise is any exercise that works any part of your trunk to your pelvic region. When most people tell me they want to work on their core, this means they want to work on their abdominal muscles. The "abs" aren't the only part of your core as so is your back and spine.

Your core is responsible for trunk rotation and also the ability to balance on one leg. It is important to work the core muscles so you can do simple tasks in every day life. 

Core exercises are about more than just strengthening your abdominal muscles; they also strengthen your hips, back and all muscles in the midsection of the body. The core is your center of gravity and where all body movements begin. A strong core is important for posture and will also help you properly perform all functional activities in your daily life. Having a strong core has also been shown to help alleviate lower back pain.


If you are new to core exercise, you should start with Core Stabilization exercises. Example Core Stabilization exercises include: Marching, Floor Bridge, Floor Prone Cobra and Prone Iso-Ab (Plank Pose). You can work up to performing 12-20 repetitions of each exercise (1-4 sets). You should perform Stabilization exercises for at least four weeks before moving on to more advanced core exercises.


Examples of more advanced core exercises include: Ball Crunch, Back Extensions, Cable Rotations and Reverse Crunches. You can perform 8-12 repetitions of each exercise (2-4 sets).  Finally, as you get stronger you can then progress to more explosive core movements (also known as Power Core Exercises). You will use a medicine ball to perform these exercises. Examples include the Rotation Chest Pass, Woodchop Throw and Front Medicine Ball Oblique Throw. Perform 8-12 repetitions (2-3 sets).

All bodily movements are initiated around the core. Your core is composed of abs, back, pelvis floor and hips. A strong core supports good posture, proper alignment and increases stability. A strong core can help prevent low back pain, avoid injury and help maintain balance. If your core is weak your muscles are not working effectively and may result in injury.

Exercises such as the plank, back extension, knee ups, push ups, leg raises, bicycle kicks, and a proper squat will strengthen the core muscles.  While sitting, standing or driving practicing the drawing in maneuver by pulling your navel in towards the spine and hold for ten seconds and release. This exercise works the transverse abdominus and will increase the stability of the lower back and can be done anytime throughout the day.

The definition of "the core" would be the region of the hips, the spine and where the center of gravity is located. Within this area we have groups of muscles which help to stabilize the spine during movement, as well as muscles which help to produce such movement.  The commom misconception is that in order to work the core one must perform numerous crunches, leg lifts, cable rotations etc.  But, in actuality, there is much more to working the core than strictly focusing on the muscles which everyone wants to see while they are at the beach.  The deep muscles, the ones we cannot see are the most important component of the core. These muscles have been shown to be weak in people who suffer from low back pain.
It may be hard to believe, but one of the best things for the deep group of muscles is simply to maintain proper posture while performing other exercises.  A push up for example, is referred to as a chest exercise, but if performed with perfect form, (which would include drawing the naval into the spine) the push up will require the core muscles to function optimally, thus serving as a great core exercise. If a push up is too challanging, try getting down on all fours and practicing drawing the naval into the spine while you are exhaling, during the inhale try to relax the abdominal region to allow for proper breathing.  This will help engage the stabilizers of the core as well assist in relaxation due to the breathing patterns. From here, work to eventually perform the push up.
Another key factor in core exercises is to develop an integrated form of training them.  Begin with working the stabilizers, discussed in the previous paragraph, of the core for 4 to 6 weeks. Then possibly progress to performing traditional core exercises, such as a crunch, reverse crunch or possibly even a back extension. These exercises still use the stabilizers, but now we begin to utilize some of the movers of the core.  Again, these would need to be performed for 4 to 6 weeks and then another progression can be made for the core region.
Your core is your center of gravity and where movement begins. The vast majority of people think core exercise is simply ab exercises, this thought is incorrect. The muscles of the core are comprised of two different systems, the movement system and the stabilization system. The stabilization system is responsible for the stability of your lumbo pelvic hip complex and the movement system is responsible for the movemet of the core. A weak core causes inefficient movement and can lead to injury.

The stabilization system consists of these muscles: Transverse abdominus, internal oblique, lumbar multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm and transversospinalis.

The movement system muscles are the latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, iliopsoas, hamgstrings, the hip adductors and hip abductors

Many people have a strong movement system and weak stabilization system, this has been shown to put pressure on the disks and compressive forces on the lumbar spine area and cause low back pain.

A simple drawing in maneuver, or sucking your navel towards your spine, has been shown to increase EMG and pelvic stabilization.

Some examples of stabilization core exercises are Marching, two leg floor bridge, floor prone cobra and prone iso abs.

Examples of core strength exercises include ball crunches, back extension, reverse crunch, and cable rotation.

Power core exercises include rotation chest pass, ball medicine ball pullover throw, and woodchop throw.
Kathy Shain

The core refers to the pelvis, rib cage, and spinal region.  The core is where  a person’s center of gravity is located and where all movement begins.  The core is a  network of deep stabilization muscles (the inner unit-transverses abdominis, internal oblique, pelvic floor, diaphragm and lower portions of the longissimus and iliocostalis) working together with the large prime mover muscles (the outer unit).  The inner unit needs to be strong so it can create a  stable platform for the  muscles to begin movement.    A strong foundation can reduce the amount of stress  a body encounters, which reduces injury.     Unfortunately, traditional gym exercises do not condition the deep core stabilizing muscles (the inner unit) they only strengthen  the larger prime movers (the outer unit). This causes a large imbalance between the inner and outer units.  You then have strong prime movers pulling on a weak lumbo-pelvic-hip complex that cannot stabilize itself.  A weak core can lead to pain and injury over time.

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;

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.

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