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When we think of a strong core generally the first thing that comes to mind is abs. We think of the muscles going down the center of our stomachs giving us the chiseled “6 pack” look. However, if you look deeper, you will discover that “core” muscles are made up of so much more than just the abdominals. Putting some extra focus on all your core muscles will help to keep your lower back pain free and your everyday functional movements easier to do.

Let’s learn more about our core!

Our core is the key to movement; it supplies trunk stability while the rest of our body is moving. It allows trunk flexion and extension so you can both stand up straight and hinge forward, lateral flexion to bend side to side and, trunk rotation to twist.

Some of the major muscles making up your core are the rectus abdominis, or the well-known “6 pack.” These muscles allow you to “crunch” and assist in some lateral movement. Internal and external obliques run along the side of the core. External obliques run at a downward diagonal, and internal obliques run at an upward diagonal. The obliques help with twisting and lateral movement.

The transverse abdominals, which are deep inside your core, help draw the core in so that you maintain a neutral spine. This is super-important when preforming almost every core exercise as well as every day movements like picking up a basket of laundry. Transverse abdominals play a key part in protecting your lower back, balance, and body control.

Along our back are the multifidi and erectors spinae, which assist in spinal stability, bending backwards, and returning to standing upright from a bent or hinged position.

The muscles listed above rely on a few other muscles from the lower body to carry out their movements safely and effectively. Our glutes, hip flexors, diaphragm, and pelvic floor contribute to these movements.

When strengthening the core your focus should be on more than just crunches. Train more efficiently by performing exercises that hit the entire core as well as some of the supporting muscles.

  • Traditional planks and side planks are great at using the abdominal muscles while also activating the glutes, hip flexors, and quads.
  • Hip Brides, Good Mornings or the Bird Dog exercise promote a healthy lower back while still engaging abdominals.
  • Most importantly, learn how to perfect a “pelvic tilt” to safely carry out core strengthening exercises.

By HealthEase fitness pro Liz Courtney