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All You Need to Know about the Core: Benefits (Part 1 of 4)

12 Jul 2012
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Core

Core has been a buzz word in fitness for some time now. When a task requires some balance or an extra bit of strength to perform, we’ll often say, “use your core!”

For most, we often interpret engaging the core as synonymous with squeezing your abs. But engaging your core goes beyond tightening up your midsection. Learning how to use your core can help you do more than just complete a challenging task.


Benefits of a Strong Core

Anchor Paul Belson via Compfight

Lower Back Support

Roughly 4 out of 5 Americans suffer from lower back pain, but some experts believe 95% of lower back pain cases are treatable without surgery. Training your core will help strengthen the muscles supporting your lower back. Add in some flexibility training, and you’re on your way to promoting a healthy back.

Strong Abs

Since the core integrates your abdominal muscles, properly engaging the core will help you strengthen and define your midsection.

An Anchor for Your Every Move

As mentioned, your core can help you with completing a given physical task. When engaged, your core helps you complete every move efficiently. This helps you avoid overcompensating by demanding too much from other muscle groups. For example, when you lift a heavy object from the ground (maybe a log in your next obstacle race), engaging your core will help you recruit your abs, obliques, and more so as not to overly stress your back and/or shoulders.

Enhanced Athletic Conditioning

A healthy lower back, strong abs, and a powerful anchor for your every move will all help enhance your conditioning for sport, including obstacle racing. A strong core will help boost your running efficiency, total body strength, and agility.

Injury Prevention

With a strong core, you’ll have support for a healthy back, thus preventing an injury that can deter you from your training goals.

Do you know of any other benefits of having a strong core?


Defining the Core

Core Muscles

So what is the core? What muscle groups make up the core?

Some sources say the core encompasses the muscles supporting your lower back. To me, the core consists of the muscles that support both your lower back AND pelvic girdle. When you train your core, you are engaging your abs, obliques, erector spinae (back), glutes, and many of the smaller muscles that make up these larger groups.


Looking Ahead: Building the Core

The next installment of this series will explore some of my favorite basic and advanced exercises for strengthening your core.

But I won’t leave you hanging completely. Chances are you already work out your core. Planks, bridges, push-ups, lunges, and many other exercises call on the core for proper form. If you’ve ever done an exercise on a stability (or swiss) ball, you’ve probably worked your core then.

Stay tuned next week for part 2!
Core muscles image from strongerfitteryou.com

Series NavigationAll You Need to Know About the Core: 3 Foundation Exercises (Part 2 of 4) >>
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