What Is the ‘Core’? There are many common misconceptions about the “core” even among fitness professionals. Most people probably think that the core is simply the abdominals, also known as six-pack. The core is much more than that. Well, core is a broad term.
The core is the centre of our body and it stabilises the trunk while the arms and legs move during functional movements. When we view it this way, we see that the core actually includes muscles that stabilise the hips; system of muscles that makes up the torso; and, muscles stabilising shoulders.
The core muscles spare the spine from excessive load; transfer force from the lower body to the upper and vice versa; and, maintain respiratory and continence. Having a strong, stable core helps us to prevent injuries.
Injuries to the spine tend to come from a combination of bending forward, side to side or rotating excessively. Back injuries are not usually linked to one specific incident, but rather to a history or excessive load with bad mechanics. To protect the back, we want to create stability around the spine as we move, run, jump, throw, lift objects and transfer force throughout our body.
There has been a strong movement away from traditional core exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and side bends. New research on the effectiveness and safety of these exercises shows that they may actually do more harm than good.
Here are some basic exercises that train these key areas and a few tips to keep in mind:
Forward plank: keep a straight line through the body, preventing the hips from sagging toward the floor.
Side plank: maintain a straight line from your head to your heels in order to prevent side bending.
Hip thrust: while lying on your back, bend your knees to roughly 90 degrees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
Having a stable core is important for preventing injuries and also for enhancing performance in sports and other activities. Do not worry about training specific muscles — they are ALL important for spinal stability.
Think instead about how the body moves and how to challenge the core from bending and twisting too much in any direction.