What is the core?

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As a Corrective Exercise Specialist I often see a large number of problems in my clients steaming from weak or under active muscles in the region of the core. Everyone has their own definition of “The Core”, and like everyone, I do as well. My definition of the core musculature includes all of the structures that make up the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex as well as all the structures that make up shoulder/scapular stability. These muscles have been divided into the following three systems: The Local Stabilization System (all muscles that attach directly to the vertebrae IE: Transversus abdominis), The Global Stabilization System (all muscles that attach from the pelvis to the spine IE: Psoas major), and The Movement System (all muscles that attach the spine and/or pelvis to the extremities IE: Latissimus dorsi). In an effort to define the boundaries of this area I would use the landmarks of the bottom of the glutes or the gluteal folds to the top of the cervical spine. The term I use when talking about the core is “Pillar Strength”. Pillar strength is a term that Mark Verstegen of Athletes Performance Institute (API) came up with. When you think of a “Pillar” you should have a vision of a huge strong column holding up a ton of weight as beams cross over it. A stable, strong and efficient core ensures optimal static and dynamic stability. In a nut shell a strong core is the center axis from which all movement will take place; if the body was a wheel, the core would be the hub and the limbs would be spokes.

In trying to keep it short I would like to leave you with a few reasons why I feel so strongly about the core musculature:

  • Low back pain relates strongly to poor glute max activation, with poor glute function causing excessive Lumbar compensation.
  • Research has shown a decrease in low back pain when strengthening the deep abdominals (transverse abdominus).
  • Hamstrings strains relate strongly to poor glute max activation. Think synergistic dominance. (A strong NASM principal)
  • Anterior knee pain relates strongly to poor glute medius strength and or activation.
  • Shoulder mobility issues and shoulder pain relate strongly to poor posterior cuff strength and scapulae stability.

And the list can go on and on. Core stability and strength CAN NEVER BE OVERLOOKED you must first have a stable and strong foundation if you what to build a house that will last. Take care of the muscles of the core and they will take care of you.

Sadie Lincoln
Sadie Lincoln on behalf of barre3
Fitness
Many people think of the core as our front body abdominal muscles. My answer includes the back body and pelvic floor. Your core is made up of the four abdominal muscle groups, two long muscle groups in your back, along your spine, and the pelvic floor. The front core body includes 4 abdominal muscle groups: rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques and transverse abdominis. The back core muscles include the multifidus and the erector spinae. These are groups of muscles. The multifidus spinae is deep in the body and connects all along the length of the spine. They are thin and stiff structures that help support the joints of the vertebrae. The erector (or extensor) spinae are a group of muscles and tendons that also support the spine in basically 3 parts; neck, mid, and low back. The pelvic floor supports the inner organs at the bottom of the pelvis and includes several muscle structures, facial tissue and the pelvic diaphragm.
In simple fashion the core is the center of your body. It consists of the abdomen muscles, the hips, the spine, and the back muscles. The core is the foundation of your body; it is where your arms and your legs stem from. Your core rotates the body and helps give it momentum to move in any direction. The core helps maintain proper prosture, balance and alignment of the body. When the core is strong, the body is strong!
Wendy Batts
Fitness
The core is your entire body basically, excluding your arms and legs. It is where all movement begins and has been described by many as the foundation that ensures proper movement. There are approximately 29 muscles that make up the core of your body and where your center of gravity is located. Your core is more than just your abdominal region so because of this, you really want to train your entire core versus just that particular area. The smallest core muscles are ones that surround your spine and help keep it stable. The bigger muscles of your core are more along the outside of your body and are responsible for moving your spine. There are many exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. I would suggest targeting the inside muscles first to reduce stress to your spine by doing exercises such as a floor or ball bridge. When performing this exercise, try to keep your spine from moving and just allow your hips to lift your bottom off of the ground. This exercise targets the butt muscles but also strengthens the core musculature that protects the spine. Do anywhere from 12-15 reps 3 times at a very slow pace. Once you feel that you can advance from exercises that have little to no motion around the spine, try performing exercises such as a ball or floor abdominal crunch and/or ball back extensions. These exercises will help target the bigger muscles of the spine. When performing these exercises, do 8-10 reps for 2-3 sets at a medium tempo.
Contrary to the popular belief that the core refers only to the abdominal or lower-back region of the body, the core consists of the hips, pelvis, abdominals, lower back, mid-back, and neck regions of the body; essentially, the core is everything but the arms and legs.  Like the core of an apple, the core of the body provides a stable platform for our arms and legs to produce efficient movement and force, and is where our center of gravity is located. Because the core encompasses more than just our abs or lower back, effective core training should consist of more than just abdominal or lower-back exercises.  Also, the muscles of the core can be divided into distinct categories that have to work together to ensure proper movement and function.  Some of the core muscles, especially those located closest to the spine, are primarily responsible for providing stability or preventing excessive movement that could place increased stress on our spine. Other core muscles, generally the larger and more visible muscles in the mirror, are primarily responsible for generating movement.  Therefore, an effective core training program should include a variety of exercises that involve stability, or little to no motion, as well as exercises that involve movements in all directions.  An example of a stability-oriented core exercise is the plank, whereas an example of a movement-oriented core exercise is a stability ball crunch.  Both are effective core exercises; however, selection of appropriate exercises should be based on your fitness program goals.

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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.