The Core Muscles and Exercises
There has been a lot of emphasis in recent years on strengthening the core muscles. Research has shown us that having strong core muscles is critical to keeping a strong fit body, especially as we age.
A strong core can also help you keep good posture as you age and reduce your chances of having back pain and injury. For anyone participating in sports, strong core muscles improve your strength and flexibility, particularly in your lower body.
What are the core muscles?
Your core muscles are those in your back, pelvic floor, abdominal area, and even in your legs. They help you have good posture and good balance, and they help you to have more strength in your back and legs.
There are six major muscle groups that make up the core muscles. The abdominal muscles are part of the core muscles.
The multifidus muscles are also important core muscles. These are small stabilizer muscles in the spine. They help you have good posture.
The erector spinae muscles are also important to core strength. These muscles are the thick, long muscles that run from the tailbone to the bottom of your skull. These muscles help keep you upright.
The hamstrings, located on the back of the thighs, and they work to help extend your hip and to help flex the knee.
The gluteus muscles are also important because they work with the hamstrings to help extend the hip as you walk.
Finally, the psoas muscles are also important core muscles. They run from the spine down to the inner thighbone, near the groin. They weaken easily when you have a desk job, or do a lot of sitting down.
The effects of weak core muscles
Having strong core muscles is especially important as we get older because they really improve how your body ages. Specifically, when your core is weak you are prone to:
- Poor Posture
- Increased chance of lower back pain and injury
- Poor flexibility
- Less strength of movement, particularly in the legs
- More chance of injury to your body, especially your back
5 Exercises that strengthen the core muscles
To work your core, you will need to add some specific exercises to your routine. There are many different exercises that can work the core.
- The plank – Both the plank and side plank are positions that can really help strengthen your core. Put upper body weight on your forearms and lift up on your toes, keeping your back flat. Turn to your side and rest on one forearm for the side plank.
- Abdominal Crunches – Your regular crunches should stay in your routine, as they offer many benefits.
- The bridge – Rather than a true exercise, this is a position you hold to help strengthen spine and hip muscles.
- Pilates Hip Circles - Lie on your back with knees bent. Lift feet off the floor. Keeping knees together, circle them in both directions.
- Knee Push Away Isometric Exercise - Lying on your back with knees bent, lift feet off the floor and pull knees toward the chest. Use your hands to push knees away from your body while pushing against your hands with your knees.