The core has become a buzz word in the exercise world, but what actually is your core and how best do we exercise it for safety and function?
Arguably the most impacted part of one's body, your core is made up of a number of muscles that support the spine and pelvis. Think of your core as a cylinder at the center of your body comprised of the breathing diaphragm at the top, pelvic floor at the bottom, multifidus back muscles, and the transverse or deep abdominals in the front that wrap around the cylinder at its deepest layer. This team of muscles work together in anticipation of your body’s every move, first and foremost to offer stability and protect the spine. Simply put, the core is the foundation of one's body—and, much the same as if you were building a house, you want to start with a strong and stable foundation.
A common misconception about the core muscles is that doing crunches will spot reduce your belly and give you an impressive set of six pack abs. But abs are really more a factor diet and genetics, as well as how you exercise—a topic for separate discussion. Although each of those four core cylinder muscle groups has its respective functions, for a strong, toned, and healthy functioning core, muscles work best together.
A well-rounded exercise or a movement training program that includes not only flexion (like crunches), but extensions or lengthening, rotations, and most importantly stability or isometric, nonmoving exercises (like planks). With, of course, a breathing focus (don't forget the diaphragm).
To achieve your strengthening goals, and improve the effectiveness and safety of daily activities, think functional; think non-movement to create stability at the deep core level; think big full body exercises in combination with a few of the more common crunches.
To determine which exercises are best suited for you,contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
Susan Donovan is a certified fitness professional and health coach and Director of Wellness & Group Exercise at the JCC of Greater New Haven