Are you fit to your core?
Start a discussion about the body’s core and you will evoke images of “Six-Pack Abs”, flabby bellies and/or the endless crunches that are probably required to achieve the “six-pack”. Society believes that the perfect midsection is tight and strong with the “six-pack image” prevailing though this appearance is difficult to attain and maintain in a typical sedentary work environment. The real value of a strong core however has less to do with a six-pack appearance (which comes more from fat loss from disciplined workouts and an active lifestyle) and more with the following benefits…
- Better posture
- Functional Stability
- Athletic Performance
- Reduced back pain
What is the Core?
The core muscles are usually considered those of the abdominals, obliques and lower back that flex the torso, stabilize the torso during movement, provide postural support and protect the critical organs of the lower torso. The primary core muscles include the Rectus Abdominis, Transversus Abdominis, Internal Obliques, External Obliques and Erector Spinae (which is actually a series of 3 muscles that run along the spinal column). The following is a brief summary of these core muscles…
- Rectus Abdominis (Six-Pack muscle) – the most superficial abdominal muscle –it runs vertically in the middle of the abdomen and is responsible for flexing the spine (crunching your torso), protecting the internal organs and can assist with forced breathing when someone is short of breath.
- Transversus Abdominis (the most internal of the abdominals) – wraps from the side of the body to the front of the abdomen and compresses the abdomen to protect internal organs and stabilize the torso. Also assists with forced breathing or deep exhalations.
- Obliques – Internal and External Obliques form the middle layers of the abdominal muscle group and are primarily responsible for flexion and rotational movements of the torso, lateral flexion (side bends), abdominal compression (internal obliques primarily) and ribcage and pelvic stabilization (External Obliques primarily).
- Erector Spinae – a series of 3 muscles that run vertically along each side of the spinal column and are responsible for extension and lateral flexion (side bends) of the torso. These muscles also help maintain proper alignment of the spinal column.
Why is it important?
A strong core is critical for good posture and healthy spinal column alignment, athletic performance in most sports and reduction of back and joint pain that affect so many. Strong abdominals can counteract tight hip flexors (a common problem which results in a forward tilt of the pelvis and excessive curvature of the lower back), stabilize the torso for athletic movements or lifting heavy objects and ensure good posture which improves appearance (minimize or eliminate slouching) and reduces stress on the back from sitting long hours at an office. These benefits, if the exercises are done correctly, can be achieved in just a few minutes 2 – 3 times per week.
The “six-pack” look is more dependent on fat reduction than abdominal exercise. For most people, this look can be achieved through improved diet and a high-intensity exercise program. Reduce or eliminate processed foods and caloric drinks (sodas and juices especially) and eat more farm raised meat along with unprocessed organic fruits and vegetables. A high-intensity exercise program with improved diet will help you achieve the look you want.
How to improve Core Strength and get Fit to Perform…
In my next post I will share ideas on exercises that will help improve posture and athletic performance and I will share my thoughts on the issue of abdominal appearance, how to achieve that six-pack look and my thoughts on what I call my “extended core”.
Yours in Health!