You probably have heard this over and over again, but what really is your core? I find myself saying this countless times to my clients, without stopping to think whether the average person understands me. Your core is a complex series of muscles that extends beyond your abs. It includes all the abdominal muscles, the muscles of your lower back, your pelvic floor, your hips and the diaphragm, a core breathing muscle.

Maintaining a strong body core is important at any age; balance, posture and back health have been linked to core strength. Your core is the vital “foundation” of all your body’s movements, whether you are walking, carrying a heavy bag, or playing a sport.

Your core muscles can be split into two types of muscles: stabilizers and movers. 
  • The stabilizer muscles attach directly to the spine and support its movement. 
  •  The movers are the muscles that support the stabilizer muscles and work with them to move your body. 
All of these muscles work together to support and move the body safely. Core muscles provide a great base of support, allowing you to move your body to do everyday tasks and participate in physical activity. 

Let's take a closer look at each core muscle and how they help us with our daily tasks. 

1. The transverse and rectus abdominus (muscles that run from just below your sternum to your waist) enable you perform every day activities, from housework to sports, by helping support your back when you bend over and stand up, and they work with other core muscles to assist with posture. 

2. Your lower back and the latissimus dorsi (the outer-middle part of your back, a.k.a "lats,”) are also considered core muscles. Strong back core muscles support your abs and help you with actions like sitting up at your desk, bending to tie your shoe or reaching up to take something off a shelf. 

3. Your obliques (the muscles that runs down along your sides, from your ribs to your upper hips) are important core muscles that help you twist and bend from side to side. They are necessary for a powerful swing in golf or tennis and are vital for turning your body to look backwards. 

4. Your core muscles do not stop in your torso, it also extends down into your legs. The core muscles of your upper body get support and assistance from your hip muscles. These include your hip flexors; abductors, along the outside of your thighs; and adductors, along the inside of your thighs. Even your hamstrings, which extend down the backs of your thighs, and your glutes (the buttocks) are considered core muscles. Without these muscles to assist the rest of your core, you would find it difficult to sit down and stand up, lift heavy items or extend your legs. 

Here is a short video by a colleague Ada-Ari. These are sample exercises that help build core strength. I would post up more videos on core strength as time goes on. Ada-Ari is a certified personal trainer in D.C. so if you reside in that region, go get your sweat on with her.

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