A strong core is critical for athletic performance and injury prevention. I’m probably not telling you anything you haven’t already heard before. Yes, core workouts and the concept of core is widely popular. But what does it all really mean anyways?
What is the Core?
The core is everything other than your arms and your legs. This means that the core encompasses your abdominals, back muscles, shoulder girdle, and hip muscles. When most people hear the word core they probably think of the ever popular six-pack, which while visually appealing, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the core muscles. In fact, there are 29 muscles that act on the spine and the lower back and pelvis region alone.
Wow! Now that’s a whole new perspective. Even with rippling muscles, it only stands to reason that there might be a few muscles deep below the surface still seriously lacking the attention they need. We all know that the body is completely interconnected and that one imbalance can lead to a system break down or injury. Do I have your attention now?
Why the Core Matters?
As I stated above, the core muscles help to prevent injury, but they also help to fuel athletic performance. The core is the center for which force is produced and it is transferred out through your limbs when you exercise. This means that in order for your arms and legs to really produce optimal force you have to have a stable center. Mostly simply put, your quads can be as strong as they want, but with weak glutes you’ll be seriously lacking power.
So, how can we make sure to target each of these muscle groups to ensure ourselves a strong foundation? Follow the guide I’ve made below. Simply pick a couple exercises from each muscle group and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded workout.
Keep in mind that many of these exercises actually work more than one muscle group and of course there is always more to be had. We couldn’t possibly hit every muscle in this one post, these are the basics or focus groups just to get started.
- Longissimus, Iliocostalis, Multifidus Muscles: Action: Keep you upright, stabilizers, lumbar extensors
- Prone Superman Exercise: Lay on your stomach and lift your arms and legs off of the ground.
- Bird Dog: Assume the quadruped position and lift one arm and it’s opposite leg, alternating.
- Rectus Abdominis (6 pack muscles): Action: Trunk Flexion
- Sit Ups
- Swiss Ball Crunches
- Toe Touches
2. Transverse Abdominus: Action: Spinal Stabilizer
- Plank: Focus on keeping a flat back
- Hollow Body Hold: Don’t allow your back to arch
- Side Plank
- Leg Lifts: Lay on your back with your legs straight up in the air and knees straight. Slowly lower your legs until they are 6 inches from the ground and then lift again.
3. Internal and External Oblique: Action: Rotating and Side-bending
- Russian Twists
- Rotational Medball Throws
- Heel Taps
- Spiderman Plank: While Planking, bring your knee up to the elbow on the same side.
- Bicycle Sit Ups
- Psoas (Hip Flexors): Action: Flex the Hips
- Seated Marching: Sitting with good posture and your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Lift one foot off of the ground, hold, and then continue that pattern to march.
2. Glute Maximus: Action: Hip Extender
- Donkey Kicks: In a quadruped position, slowly ‘kick’ one leg back and behind you.
- Glute Bridges: Slow and continued. Push your low back into the ground.
3. Glute Medius: Action: Stabilizes you when you are on one leg
- Fire Hydrants
- Clam Shells
- Sidelying Leg Raises
- Monster Walks
- Latissimus Dorsi: Action: Core Stabilizer when there is arm movement
- Pull Ups
- Lat Pull Downs
- Medball Slams
2. Pactoralis Muscle: Action: Extends and Flexes the arm at the shoulder
- Push Ups
- Dumbbell Chest Flyes
3. Rhomboids: Action: Shoulder Stability
- Scap Squeezes: Focus on pulling the shoulder blades together
Mix and match to create your own ultimate core workout. Try different exercises every day to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.