The Core. You’ve probably heard this term thrown around the fitness world in the recent years. But what does it really mean?
Most people just assume the core is your ab muscles. They spent countless hours at the gym doing crunches and sit-ups with little results. Your core is much more than your abs!
Many personal trainers describe your core as a muscular box with the abdominals in the front, the paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the floor.
Your core is your body’s powerhouse because it’s the central region providing a girdle of strength. It connects your abdomen with the lower back and hips. The abdominal muscles with the help of your spinal muscles create a stable base for generating strength and providing support for all movement. Athletes take note!
But the core also plays a vital role in everyday biological functions, including creating internal pressure within the abdominal cavity, holding the internal organs in place, and helping with the expulsion of air from the lungs and bodily waste.
But what is the core?
The Muscles of the Core
There are two major groups of lumbar extensors that make up the paraspinals: the erector spinae and the local muscles (multifidi, rotatores, and intertransveri). The erector spinae is a group of three long tendinous muscles that run the length of the spine. The muscles provide support for spinal flexion (bend forward) and extension (bend backward) and also aid in stabilising the spine against sideways movement. The multifidus is a deep series of muscles attached to the spine that works to keep the spine straight and to help stabilise it and to maintain good posture.
The quadratus lumborum is large, thin, and quadrangular-shaped muscle that directly inserts into the lumbar spine. The quadratus lumborum stabilises the spine against lateral movement, lifting heavy objects, and carrying items in one hand, such as a suitcase or groceries.
The abdomen muscles are a group of four different muscles: the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and the external and internal obliques.
The rectus abdominis is commonly known as the “six-pack” muscle. It is mainly involved in flexion. The transversus abdominis is a deep muscle that runs around the abdomen like a girdle holding the core together. The transversus abdominis works to maintain good posture, to maintain internal abdominal pressure, and to support the internal organs.
The internal obliques are deep muscles that help the body to rotate and flex to the side. They also aid in maintaining good posture and internal abdominal pressure. The external obliques are superficial muscles located above the internal obliques. They are important for rotational core movements and side flexion.
Hip Girdle Musculature
The hip musculature includes the psoas muscle group and gluteus muscle group. The psoas (hip flexors) control flexion movements of the hip, such as walking, running, and going up and down stairs.
The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the glutes and lies beneath the gluteus medius. It works to lift the leg outward (abduction) and internal hip rotation. The gluteus medius lies between the minimus and maximus. It assists with abduction and rotation (internal and external) and provided stability to the pelvic region.
The gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial muscle of the hips. It works to abduct and extend the hips, while also stabilising the pelvic region.
Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor
The diaphragm serves as the roof of the core. It provides some stability to the lumbar spine from contractions during breathing and creating intra-abdominal pressure. The pelvic floor is the floor of the core.
Now that you know the muscles that make up the core, it is important to work all those muscles. Skip the crunches and try other core-specific exercises like bird dog, planks, and “dead bug”.