Why are core muscles important? (2023)

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Why are core muscles important? We often hear about the importance of activating the core during exercise, but many people remain unsure of what constitutes this complex network of muscles.

Is the core just another term for abs? It's the only way to get a strong core by doing intense workouts.abdominal workouts with weights, or using thebest abdominal rollersto sculpt a leaner, more defined six-pack?

There's a lot more to this crucial muscle group than meets the eye, which is why we sought out the expertise of Arielle Martone, physical therapist, yoga instructor and owner ofFind your way mama, to ask the question – why are core muscles important?

Get unrivaled support from some of thebest yoga matsor read on to learn more about what these muscles are, what they do, and how you can strengthen them.

What are Core Muscles?

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The core refers to a region of our torso that houses the abdominal and pelvic organs. “Your core is your foundation, it provides the stability your limbs need to move freely,” says Martone. “It is made up of several muscles that provide stability and allow for movement in the spine and pelvis.”

The main muscles that make up the core are:

  • Diaphragm: The main muscle of breathing and the upper limits of the core.
  • Rectus abdominis: The muscle at the front of the abdomen (the “six pack” muscle) that flexes the trunk and posteriorly tilts the pelvis.
  • Internal and external obliques: “side abdominal” muscles that help you flex your torso to the side and rotate.
  • Quadratus lumborum: This deep muscle helps extend and laterally flex the spine (lateral flexion).
  • Transversus abdominis: This deep core muscle compresses and supports the abdominal organs.
  • Multifidus: This muscle stabilizes the spine during local movements.
  • Erector Spine: The group of muscles in the back that run along the spine on either side and extend the trunk when acting bilaterally and laterally flex the trunk when acting unilaterally.
  • Pelvic floor muscles: support pelvic floor organs and control excretion, which is whypelvic floor exercises in pregnancyare so crucial.

Why are core muscles important?

Why are core muscles important? (2)

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Martone explains that the core muscles form a rectangular spine that provides the stability our body needs to support head and limb movement.

“Its core allows for functional movements. You can work a distal muscle group [like calves or quadriceps] as much as you want and it will get stronger, but it won't translate to better or stronger function without your core support," says Martone. In other words, you need to have a strong core to see improvements in exercise performance or daily function, even as you strengthen other parts of your body.

“Imagine someone doing biceps curls sitting with their elbow supported. If that's all they do, that muscle will be able to lift more in the same position, but without the core, that person won't be able to use that force in any meaningful way," she says.

Martone adds that the core is also the starting point for our balance. "If our core isn't working well, neither is our permanent balance." Poor balance can increase the risk of falls.

The core plays an important role in healthy posture because many of the core muscles support and/or move segments of the spine.

How can you get a stronger core?

Why are core muscles important? (3)

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We know a strong core is important, but what's the best way to strengthen the core? Sit-ups? Planks? Endless crunches?

According to Martone, the most effective way to strengthen your core is to start with specific, incremental core exercises, and good news—it doesn't have to be push-ups.

“The focus of building a stronger core should be stability. When performing the exercises, you want to keep your spine in a neutral position and avoid as much movement as possible,” says Martone. “You can start slowly on your back and focus on your breathing. As you inhale, think of expanding and lengthening your pelvic floor. As you exhale, think of lifting your pelvic floor and gently contracting your abdominal muscles.

Martone says you should imagine your navel and spine coming together and your lower ribs and pelvic bones coming together as you perform this mindful core engagement exercise. Once you've mastered that, you can gradually add limb movements. She suggests heel slides, stomps and alternating arm reaches.

“Working on your hands and knees and in planks, modified planks, and side planks are great poses as long as the focus remains on stability,” says Martone. “Since the core is involved in the functional movements of the limbs, you can work towards a stronger core during most other standing exercises.”

While most people opt for an exercise mat when they think of core exercises, Martone says standing core exercises are some of the most functional—since we need to engage our core to help stabilize and balance our body as we stand and walk almost every day. the days. life situations.

Performing exercises on an unstable kit such asbalance exercises, can also help build your stability.

How can you activate your core muscles during your workout?

Why are core muscles important? (4)

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The best way to activate the core muscles during training is through the breathing technique.

“You want to make sure you're breathing and not holding your breath during your workout,” says Martone. “When you hold your breath during activity, you increase abdominal pressure, which puts stress on your core muscles.”

She says visualization is also a good way to activate your core and mind-body connection during your workout. While specific core exercises are also helpful for working your core muscles, these muscles can also be activated with other standing exercises.

“Visualize what you want your core muscles to do,” says Martone. “Hactile input can also be useful for easy activation. As the muscle is engaged and contracted—say, the rectus abdominis and transversus during alternate supine heel glides—you can gently tap these muscles. These beats can help your brain “turn them on”.

What are common mistakes with core exercises?

Martone says there are several common mistakes she sees people making when it comes to basic exercises, like rushing them, using sloppy form, and trying to do more than they're ready for. The priority should always be to use proper form so that you can engage your muscles, reap the benefits of the exercise, and prevent potential injuries.

“Good core exercises aren't always exciting, but they need to be done for proper activation and true benefits,” says Martone. “Another mistake is that people only work one of the core muscles, usually the rectus abdominis, and forget about the rest. Your core routine should be varied and performed in a variety of positions.”

Martone recommends doing some core exercises most days of the week, noting the following: “Your core is your foundation. A strong core allows you to move more easily and can often lessen pain symptoms. A strong core allows for an overall stronger and more balanced person.” Discoverhow to improve your core strength at home in just three minutesto get you started.


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