by ggargiulo, September 7, 2017
For those of you who are physically active, regardless of the sport or practice you’re involved in, the term “core strength” has probably popped up in discussion more than a few times. It seems that working on your core has become a central—or core—component of training for countless physical pursuits, and one that always seems to be mentioned when prescribing an ideal regimen. But with all this talk swirling around, do you know what the core really is? If not, our Bayonne physical therapists can help.
Let’s start with what many people tend to think of when the core is mentioned: a well-defined, sculpted six-pack that you see in infomercials and on fitness magazine covers. The truth is that people with strong abdominal muscles usually also have a strong core, but that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. So chiseled abs may look great, but they are really only one portion of your entire core.
In actuality, your core is a complex series of muscles that includes just about everything besides your arms and legs. The main muscles of the core are those that are deep within the abs and lower back, as well as the pelvic floor, which are muscles that sit at the bottom of the pelvis. Since they don’t get as much attention as the abs, the pelvic floor muscles are often neglected, even though they play a major role in core strength.
The core muscles are involved in almost every movement your body makes, and they are the primary source of your stability. The core can be seen as a sturdy central link in a chain that connects the upper and lower body, which is required for everything else to function properly. No matter where a motion starts, it either originates in the core or eventually moves through it. Therefore, a weak or inflexible core can impair how well your arms or legs function, while a strong core can lead to a host of benefits. These include reduced back pain, better posture, lower risk of falling and improved overall performance in sports and other physical activities.
Popular “core” exercises like crunches and push-ups are helpful, but they don’t address many other important muscles. Effective core exercises train the muscles of your pelvis, lower back, abs and hips to work in harmony. This will in turn strengthen your spine and improve efficiency, alignment, balance and stability. Here are some helpful exercises that will work your entire core and can be easily performed at home:
- Side plank: challenges stability and improves core strength by working the muscles along the side of your body
- Superman: helps strengthen the lower back muscles
- Bridge: improves core strength of several muscles at once
- Segmental rotation: a stretching exercise
- Climbing rope: recruits entire core, including oblique muscles
- Oblique reach: also targets obliques
- Pelvic floor exercises: Kegel exercises and others that strengthen this area are also important; it’s often good to practice using these muscles in a holding nature to work on their endurance rather than repetitive movements, since the goal is to have these muscles help us with stabilizing the body
With this knowledge, we hope that the next time core muscles enter a conversation, you’ll be better equipped to discuss them and know how to effectively target them in your training. Doing so will enhance your physical abilities and improve your overall athletic performance due to a better functioning link between your upper and lower body. Please remember to consult your health care professional if you have any conditions that may require direct supervision to perform these exercises safely. For additional core exercises or any core-related problems, contact Strulowitz & Gargiulo Physical Therapy at 201-243-6662 to schedule an appointment at our flagship Jersey City clinic, the Jersey City Medical Center Outpatient Therapy Department, our Bayonne location, or at Clara Maas Medical Center in Belleville, NJ. You can also click here for more information on the core muscles.