Core muscles are the muscles in the body's lower and upper torso. Many of these muscles are below the surface of the body, so they are not visible even when an athlete has developed them. They are extremely important, though, because it is the core muscles that maintain proper posture and that protect the body's inner organs. They also are crucial to most athletic endeavors because almost all athletic movements utilize these muscles to some extent. There are a number of ways to work out the core, all of which will improve overall health and athletic performance.
Contrary to what many athletes believe, strengthening the core muscles involves a great deal more than simply performing a variety of exercises that target the abdominal muscles and back muscles. These muscles are part of the body's core, but it also includes muscles in the pelvic floor, hips and spine. To have a strong core, it is crucial that an athlete work all of these muscles.
These other muscles tend to get a lot less attention, though, because they are not visible. Strong core muscles might not be as recognizable as a set of developed abs, but they still are incredibly important to athletic performance and overall body health. The transverse abdominis, for example, is not visible because it lies beneath the abdominal muscles, but it nevertheless is responsible for keeping good posture and for protecting many of the internal organs located in the abdominal region. Similarly, the erector spinae, which are located along the spine, are not visible but are crucial to maintaining good posture and keeping the upper back in proper alignment. These muscles work with the transverse abdominis to keep the body's trunk stable and thus allow the limbs of the body to perform athletic motions.
It is important to develop and strengthen them all of the core muscles because of their importance in maintaining proper posture. Focusing only on some aspects of the body's core can lead to imbalances that can result in bad posture and back problems. There are several types of exercises that can provide this balanced approach. Workout systems such as yoga and Pilates engage the core in a variety of ways and thus provide a complete core workout. Similarly, exercises that require balance, especially those that use a workout ball or balance board, generally will provide a good workout for the core muscles.
How To Strengthen Core Muscles?
There are many exercises that will strengthen your core muscles. Most involve assuming a specific position and bracing your abdominal muscles as though you’re expecting to be punched in the stomach. Some of these include planks, dead bug, bridges, and superhero or half-airplane.
- Planks — On a mat, put your hands directly below your shoulders and push them into the floor. Tighten your abdominals and glutes, which will raise your rear end and round your spine into the proper position. Keep your head in line with your spine by focusing on a spot on the floor about a foot in front of your hands.
- Dead bug — lie on your back and press your lower back into the floor, as if you’re trying to pull your belly button through your spine. Raise your legs so your knees are directly above your hips and bent at a 90-degree angle. Raise your arms straight up from the shoulder.
- Bridges — Lie on your back with your knees up and feet on the floor in line with your hips, ankles and toes in a straight line. As you contract the muscles in your belly, press your feet into the floor and raise your hips until your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line. Contract your glutes at the top of the bridge.
- Superhero or half-airplane — These positions can be done from a hands and knees position or with the torso resting on a stability ball. Never do these exercises while lying on your stomach, since that can injure your spine.
Kneeling on the floor with your hands and knees directly below your shoulders and hips, push your hips back to engage your lower back muscles. Pull your shoulder blades together and contract your abdominal muscles. Lift one leg behind you and straighten it until it’s in line with your hip. Then lift the opposite arm out to the front, keeping it in line with your shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds, then do the other leg and arm. Repeat five to six times. For half-airplane, lift your arm out to your side.
Which Sport Does Not Require Core Muscle Strength?
There are no sports that don’t require core muscle strength. If you were to open your favorite search engine and ask this question, you might be told that snorkeling doesn’t require it, but those answers are incorrect. Even if all you’re doing is floating in the water, looking down at the sea below, your core muscles are engaged.
Some people believe that poker is a sport, and according to the Oxford Dictionary definition, it does qualify, since it’s people in competition with others, requiring stamina or strength. Long poker tournaments can last for days, and the simple act of sitting in a chair can become exhausting after many hours of doing so. Staying in your seat involves your core muscles.
Does Running Help Core Muscles?
Running is a whole-body workout, though it primarily uses your lower limb and core muscles. Your core muscles keep you upright and provide the stability your hips need to churn out those sprints or miles spent pounding the pavement. When you’re running, keep your belly muscles engaged to help strengthen your core.
Running won’t give you six-pack abs, but that’s not what the core muscles are all about. Your core is about keeping your body steady and sturdy as you move. To build your various core muscles while running, vary your workouts between longer, slower runs, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and running hills.
It’s vital to strengthen your core muscles so you can easily and safely move your body. Without a strong core, you’ll struggle to do even the most basic activities such as floating or sitting in a chair. There are many exercises you can do to build up and maintain your core strength for a happier, healthier life.