Core Basics: What is the core?
Your “core” is a group of muscles in your torso that primarily serve to stabilize your body and support your spine. These muscles form a type of box. Your abdominals are the muscles in the front and sides of the box. The back consists of muscles running alongside your spine. At the bottom of this box are the muscles in your hip and pelvis. The top is your diaphragm. This entire box contains more than 15 muscles that work together to tighten and control your movement. When you bend down to pick up items and lift them over head all of these muscles are activated. This is why a movement like the squat to an overhead press is a more effective core training method than sitting on a machine and pressing a weight overhead.
If your core muscles are weak, you cannot breathe as deeply, pick up things that are heavy or move as quickly. It can lead to incontinence, poor posture, chronic back and hip pain, and difficulty with pregnancy and labor. When your core muscles are strong and work in harmony, you have better balance and decrease your risk of injury when lifting heavy objects.
How can you get better core strength?
Strengthening the core muscles is done through slow movement patterns or static (non-moving) exercises. Start with a plank exercise and practice it until you can do it easily.
What is a basic plank exercise?
Get into a push-up position, but place your forearms on the ground instead of your hands. Your elbows should line up directly beneath your shoulders. Toes on the ground. Support your body to create a strong line from head to toe. Keep your eyes on the floor. Be careful not to let your hips sag down or bend up. Gradually work up your core strength to hold this position for 60 seconds.
Just starting out?
Begin with the low-intensity modified plank. Instead of being on your toes, start on your knees and forearms. Once you feel comfortable in that position progress to supporting yourself using your toes and forearms.
Video courtesy of YouTube Channel, diethealth.
DISCLAIMER: The contents and opinions expressed by Everett Clinic teammates and providers on “A Healthier You” blog and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not a substitute for medical advice. Consult your own provider for personal health recommendations.
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