What is your body’s core? In this context, core is an abstract term. Your body doesn’t have a core, like an apple. The term core, here, refers to 7 groups of muscles that support, stabilize, and move the center area of your body, located between your rib cage and your pelvis.
The importance of maintaining and strengthening these muscle groups cannot be understated. As most of us are in situations that require sitting for extended period of time, whether it be for work or leisure. This extended sitting can weaken the glutes and core, and lead to tightness in the front of your hips and legs. These changes can lead to many negative consequences, including low back pain and weight gain.
Starting at the top, the 7 muscle groups that make up your core:
1) Diaphram – Your diaphram is a large, dome shaped muscle, that sits at the base of the chest and separates the abdominals from the chest. It is the primary muscle used in breathing.
2) Abdominals – There are 4 layers of Abdominal muscles. Starting on the outside and working our way inward, we have the Rectus Abdominus, which are the six pack, outer abdominal muscles, we’re all familiar with. Next, there are the External Obliques, followed by the Internal Obliques. Finally, the inner most layer of your abdominal muscles, which is the Transverse Abdominus. These ab muscles, together, support and allow movement of the trunk, along with regulating internal abdominal pressure.
3) Latissimus Dorsi – Most commonly referred to as the Lats, these large muscles cover the back and side of the trunk, from the armpit down to the pelvis. They are considered part of your core muscles because they assist in spinal stabilization.
4) Erector Spinae – These are a group of long muscles, that lie on each side of and extend up the spinal column. They play an important role in spinal stability and perform movement of the vertebral column.
5) Psoas muscles – Your Psoas muscles are located deep within the lower lumbar region of your spine. They originate at the front of the lumbar spine, run over the pelvis and attach to the front of the femur. When these muscles contract, they flex the hip joint and lift the upper leg toward the body. This is a very important core muscle , because when you sit for extended periods of time, as most of us do, your psoas muscles may become tight, pulling your pelvis forward, resulting in additional pressure on your lumbar spinal discs. This additional pressure can lead to lower back pain.
6)Quadratus Lumburum – also referred to as QL, for short. Your Quadratus Lumburm is a lower back muscle that originates from the pelvis and runs diagonally, attaching to your lumbar vertebrae. This muscle will cause lateral flexion of the spine, or laterally elevate the pelvis.
7) Pelvic Floor –These muscles stabilize the pelvis, support your organs, and assist in performing bodily functions.
These 7 groups of muscles all work together to stabilize and move the trunk of your body, as well as regulating abdominal pressure, and assisting in breathing and performing bodily functions. Keeping strong and healthy core muscles will reduce your risk for injury, help reduce and prevent lower back pain, and benefit your athletic performance.
Now that we’ve answered what, where, and why? Let’s identify and explain 3 exercises that can safely strengthen some of the body’s core muscles.
1) Dead Bugs – Dead Bugs are a great exercise to strengthen a number of the core muscles, we discussed, at the same time. Unlike other core exercises, like sit-ups. Dead Bugs target deeper core muscles, like the Transverse Abdominus, Pelvic Floor, and Erector Spinae. As well as working the exterior Abdominal muscles.
2) Suitcase Carry – Also known as the single arm farmer’s walk. This is a great way to target and strengthen your Quadratus Lumburum, which can greatly benefit your spinal stability, and lessen your risk for lower back injury and pain.
3) Bird Dogs – This exercise works the Erector Spinae, Abdominals, and Glutes. This exercise is an ideal choice for those with low back concerns, as it can assist in developing balance, posture, and strength.