Get to know your inner core- it’s a matter of good health
“Core strength” is a buzzword you’ve heard at the gym, at yoga, on TV, but do you actually know what it means? Many think core training is a fancy way of saying toning your abs. What usually comes to mind is an endless amount of sit-ups. But your chiropractor will teach you that there is so much more to core training than crunches and a trim tummy.
What is core strength?
Think of your core muscles as the strong central link that connects your upper and lower body. Almost all activities we do in our day-to-day life require activation of the core. Whether you’re vacuuming or playing golf, the necessary motion for these activities either starts in your core or moves through it.
No matter where the motion for such movement begins, they will ripple up and down your body’s biomechanical chain. This is precisely why weak or inflexible core muscles can hinder how well your arms and legs function. Weakness and inflexibility decrease the power and efficiency from many of the moves your body will make. Properly strengthening your core amplifies your power. A strong core also enhances balance and spinal stability, which are imperative in preventing falls and injuries.
Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine your fitness efforts and back health. And while it’s important to build a strong core, it’s unwise to aim all your efforts at developing rippling abs. Overtraining abdominal muscles while neglecting muscles of the back and hip can set you up for dysfunctional movement patterns which can lead to injuries.
Take a moment and consider how often your core plays a role in daily life:
Balance and stability – Your abdominal and back muscles stabilize your body, allowing you to move in any direction. It helps you on the bumpiest terrain and standing in one spot without losing your balance. A strong and stable core can decrease your risk of falling.
Day-to-day living – Bending to put on shoes or picking something up, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or even standing still – these are examples of the many routine actions that rely on your abdominal and back muscles. You may not notice this until they become difficult or painful. Even other basic activities like bathing or dressing call on them.
On-the-job tasks – Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on your abdominal and back muscles. A less obvious task, like sitting at your desk for hours, engages your core as well. Phone calls, typing, computer use and similar work can make back muscles very stiff and sore. Pain and stiffness can creep up quickly especially if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and are not taking sufficient breaks.
A healthy back – Low back pain affects up to 80% of the population and can be debilitating. It is also a major contributor of workplace absence. Low back pain can be prevented through proper alignment and exercise that promotes well-balanced and strong core muscles. When low back pain strikes, chiropractic care is often prescribed to alleviate pain and then core exercises coupled with massage therapy may be necessary to further strengthen stabilize. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, low back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony.
Good posture – Weak abdominal and back muscles contribute to slouching. Good posture trims your silhouette and projects confidence. More importantly, it lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture helps with better body mechanics and will bring ease with the effort you put into exercising too!
Sports and other hobbies – Golfing, yoga, baseball, tennis, biking, running, skating, swimming, volleyball, paddling, skiing and pretty much all athletic activities are driven by strong abdominal and back muscles. It’s often not mentioned or spoken about, but sexual activities require core power and flexibility as well.
Housework, DIY work, gardening– Bending, lifting, shoveling, raking, painting, twisting, carrying, hammering, reaching overhead and even vacuuming, mopping, and dusting are common chores that depend on the core.
Your core is central to your everyday life! Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a well-rounded fitness program, consider including abdominal and back muscles exercises in the mix as well. Aside from occasional sit-ups and pushups, however, we often neglect core exercises. It pays to get your core muscles (the muscles around your trunk and pelvis) in better shape.
Whether you’re a beginner taking the first steps toward back health or a dedicated fitness enthusiast hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness program is the best way to reach your fitness goals.
How does one train their core?
Core exercise and training does not require specialized equipment or a gym membership. Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. For example, using free weights in a manner that involves maintaining a stable trunk can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including your core.
You may also try incorporating specific abdominal and back muscles exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core. Some examples include planks, sit-ups and fitness ball exercises. Fitness exercises that have an element of instability (achieved using exercise and Bosu balls) are wonderful to challenge your core while enhancing balance and stability.
Be sure to ask your chiropractor for assistance and guidance on your journey to back health, balance, and stability.