December 22, 2014
Core exercises are a big part of a well-rounded exercise program.
The core is made up of 29 pairs of muscles encompassing the abdomen, hips, back and chest. It's the link between the lower and upper body, transferring power and forces between the two.
The abdominal muscles, such as transverse abdominals and your obliques, make up the front. The muscles that support the spine, called paraspinal muscles, are extremely important for core function and strength. The core also includes the diaphragm, the muscles in the pelvic floor, the muscles around the hips, and the gluteus muscle. The core is at its strongest when the connection between the upper and lower body is strong and solid. If not, there will be strain on the limbs, muscles and tendons which can result in injuries.
About 60 to 80 percent of American adults have lower back pain according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It's the second most common reason people go to the doctor. It's also the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. Lower back problems affect the spine's flexibility, stability, and strength, which in turn can cause pain and stiffness. Hence a strong core can alleviate lower back pain.
So, one purpose of our core is to stabilize the body's center during movement. Everyday movements like tying shoes, picking up packages or laundry, operating a vacuum cleaner or similar machinery, as well as sitting, standing, rotating, reaching overhead and dressing are all activities where the core is used. On-the-job tasks such as sitting for long periods of time, typing, twisting, bending and reaching for the phone all involve engaging the core in less obvious ways.
What about sports? Golf, tennis, pickle ball, table tennis, cycling, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, rowing and many other athletic activities are powered by a strong core—and less often mentioned are sexual activities, which call for core power and flexibility, too.
Because your core is essential in keeping the body balanced, stability is affected when your core is not strong. When older folks fall a contributing factor is usually a weak core. Balance not only requires equilibrium, but also good stability of the core muscles and the joints, particularly the hip, knee, and ankle.
A strong core helps to keep your spine erect and your hip bones in a neutral position. This in turn helps to keep your posture erect. It lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you sit and stand up straighter as well as take in deeper breaths. Good posture helps you gain full benefits from the effort you put into exercising, too.
Core conditioning involves a lot more than just doing crunches. To activate it you must work multiple muscles groups at the same time. Planks, bridges, squats, lunges, overhead pulldowns, standing rows and back extensions are all exercises that can contribute to a stronger core. Simple yoga poses, such as the tree pose, can help improve balance and stability. When practicing balance positions, remember to change the direction you're looking. This will increase the challenge of balance.
The bottom line is the core is our foundation to all the bodies movements. Keeping the "powerhouse" strong helps to keeps the entire body moving.