Core Exercises: So Important Yet Often Neglected

Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. Aside from occasional situps and pushups, however, core exercises are often neglected. Still, it pays to get your core muscles in better shape. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.

Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. For example, using free weights in a manner that involves maintaining a stable trunk can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including your core muscles. You may also try several specific core exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core [1].

In addition, core stiffness is essential for injury prevention and performance enhancement. Core stiffness is not optimized in body building exercises. Core stiffness requires dedicated training. A discussion of the core requires a 3-dimensional perspective. The spine is a stack of vertebrae that is called upon to bear loads, yet it is flexible. Our spines do it all—they bend and allow the lungs to fill with air, and even allow us to dance.

On the performance side, “core stiffness” is mandatory. It is absolutely essential to carry heavy loads, run fast, and change direction quickly. It determines the rate of speed for movement of the arms and legs. Analysis of the muscular system, together with its associated fascia sheets, reveals a clever guy wire system that creates balanced stiffness eliminating the possibility of buckling and injury. The concern is that modern living does not “tune” and train this guy wire system, and in many people’s cases, it lapses into complacency.

The greater the load that is placed down the spine, the greater the need for the musculature to stiffen the spine. How can this be? When muscles contract, they do two things: they create force and they create stiffness. Stiffness is always stabilizing to a joint. Thus, stiffness prepares the joint to bear load without buckling. Failure to appropriately stiffen is the biggest cause of joint injury, although not the only cause [2].

Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries [1].

Here are few facts about core strengthening exercises:

  • Core exercises help you reach fitness goals.
  • Strong cores make it easier to do most physical activities.
  • Can help tone your abs.
  • Can improve balance and stability.