You often hear a lot about people training to strengthen their core, but what does this actually mean? Working the core is about more than just getting rock-hard abs.
The core muscles also include the transverse and rectus abdominis, which are the muscles that run from below your sternum to your waist. Some of the back muscles are also considered part of the core family. Now let’s take a look at 12 reasons why you should focus on them…
Defending Against Injury
Best Health (Reader’s Digest) notes there are more than superficial reasons to tone up your middle muscles. Building up the muscles below the surface near the spine, which will add to your core stability, can actually reduce the risk of injury, it explains.
This is because most movement “starts at the centre and moves outward,” and having a strong center means you’ll be able to roll with your routine easier without pain, it adds. The source suggests drawing in your ab muscles, holding for five breaths, and then relaxing for 10-reps to build core stability. Do this 10-times a day.
Building a Protective Wall
The same source explains building up your core is almost like building a protective wall in front of vital organs in that part of your body. It can also guard other essential systems – “it’s also where your body’s largest (and most important) veins and arteries are based,” says Best Health.
Strong core muscles support your spine more effectively, and a healthy spine helps you move more effectively, it adds. If you don’t have a healthy core, “It will eventually cause pain, and that will affect the quality of your life.”
Gaining Straight Up Advantages
Many of us slump over a smartphone or at an office desk for hours a day, and this puts a lot of strain on our neck and shoulders. Having a strong core will help you maintain a healthy posture.
WebMD lists six exercises for achieving a better posture, noting the key is to focus on exercises that build your core. It says that Yoga and Pilates (as examples) are effective to “target your entire core with slow, controlled movements to get the most out of your workout.”
Not a Pain in The… Back?
If you’re regularly struggling with lower back pain, then your weak core muscles might be to blame, according to HealthStatus.com – which notes lower back pain is one of the most common chronic pain complaints.
The muscles surrounding your spine are responsible for helping support the vertebrae and discs in the back, it explains. “The lower back is supposed to have a forward curve to it, but weak core muscles will make this position impossible, resulting in pain in the surrounding muscles and tendons,” it adds.
Aiding Digestive Function
If going to the gym to work your core is hard to swallow, then keep in mind that weak core muscles might actually putting strain on your digestive system.
Fitness Magazine explains that working your core muscles and stretching them can help prevent the core from being too tight, which can “compress the organs and lead to poor digestion.” Work on improving the flexibility as well as the strength of your core muscles during your routines.
Making Everyday Routines Easier
Building core muscles is not just for people looking to win triathlons. Having a strong core can benefit everyone as it will make routine chores and activities that much easier.
Huffington Post lists seven reasons to train your core – that have nothing to do with gaining the stereotypical 6-pack abs so you can look more confident on Instagram. It lists being able to perform chores like vacuuming with less strain – and along with greater ease of vacuuming your bedroom, it will improve your ability to perform other activities in the bedroom, it adds…
Taking it to Heart
Working your core muscles will also give your heart a healthy boost as well, according to Fitness Magazine. The source explains that about 10-percent of “visceral” fat makes its way between your abdominal wall and major organs. “That’s the more dangerous fat, an excess of which can lead to tons of problems – from heart issues to dementia to breast cancer,” it warns.
To limit this type of fat, the source suggests mixing up your routines to include sets of crunches and planks along with cardio (to get the blood pumping) to help achieve 150-minutes of moderate activity per week.
Let’s face it – many people exercise so they can look better for photos or for upcoming events, and hey – we have nothing against that, as long as you have the fitness benefits in mind too.
As we mentioned before, stronger abs can help you achieve a better posture – and one of the benefits of a healthy posture is being perceived as being thinner, according to WebMD. The source points to prior research that shows women standing up straight were rated “younger and more attractive” by viewers, even when the subject weighed more than someone who was slumping.
Okay, we can’t make that promise, but having a strong core will definitely go a long way in your sports performance – according to the Huffington Post. “It will help you outperform a bodybuilder in just about any sport (except for a weight-lifting competition),” it states.
While a bodybuilder may have “rippled abs” that makes them look unstoppable, they might not have the balance and range of motion of a strong core that can give them an edge in throwing, kicking, and running, it explains. That’s why it’s important to focus on the muscles below the surface, it adds.
Helping You Breathe Easier
Learning how to breathe deeply has a range of benefits on its own, and building up your core muscles – including your diaphragm at the top of your core – can help in this process, explains Fitness Magazine.
The diaphragm is essential for deep breathing, it explains. The source adds that a study has found that learning to breathe from your diaphragm can help increase your relaxation and decrease stress. It can also apparently help you recover from a workout. “After athletes completed an intense workout followed by one hour of relaxing breathing, they had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” it says.
Puts Your Body in Balance
Having good balance means balancing your workouts to include core muscle exercises. WebMD explains if you’re unsteady on your feet when you’re getting in and out of the shower for example, poor core muscles could be the culprit. You’re more likely to lose your balance and fall without “strong trunk muscles,” says WebMD.
This loss of balance and coordination is common with age progression, adds the source. But luckily, core muscle training is becoming trendy again – although physical therapists have been focusing on these muscles for years, it notes.
Promoting Overall Well-Being
Best Health notes that aside from getting more attention on the beach (if that’s what you’re after), you’ll just feel better overall when you core is at its best – and shouldn’t that be reason enough to start a core training regime?
It confirms that getting stronger from the inside out is the best approach. Once you have a strong core, you can start focusing more on the outside muscles that are more commonly associated with strength, it adds. “Just because you’re strong, it doesn’t mean you have a strong core. It’s really something everyone can work on,” it adds.