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Benefits of a Strong Core and How to Achieve One
The benefits and importance of having a strong and functional core cannot be understated. Core strength is essential to so many aspects of life: injury prevention, posture, spine health and optimal functional performance to name a few. We may not realize it, but the core is utilized in all aspects of everyday life. Even with so much importance, most people have little understanding of what the “core” actually is and how it is intended to function. Believe it or not, having a strong and functioning core is much more than having those coveted 6-pack washboard abs.
Let start by getting a better understanding of what muscles, tissues, and bones actually make up the core:
It involves that 6-pack muscle the rectus abdominis. You probably have also heard of those obliques and maybe the transverse abdominals. Some muscles you probably haven’t heard of that make up the core are the back extensors that run up your spine and the quadratus lumborum, another back muscle. Yes, the core encompasses muscles of the back!
The final two muscles are actually your Lats and Glutes. I’d be willing to bet that before you started reading this, you didn’t expect to hear about lats and glutes in a core article... but they are important! All of these muscles, along with some smaller ones not mentioned, make up this cylindrical sling that wraps around your body and stabilizes the Lumbar spine - “your low back.”
Now, let’s talk about how the core functions and why it’s important.
Contrary to popular belief the core is meant to be rigid and stiff. Its primary function is stabilization not flexing forward or rotating. These type of movements should be achieved utilizing the upper and lower parts of the body while the core remains stable. Many injuries involving the back are often the result of poor core stabilization or conditioning. These injuries can happen by performing some of the simplest tasks of everyday life like bending over to tie your shoes; yes people hurt their back just trying to lace up those sneakers. Having a strong core helps to prevent injuries like this among others from happening.
In addition to preventing injury, a strong core will help with everyday activities! Things like sweeping the floor, lifting a box from the floor to a shelf and carrying all of those grocery bags that you just have to get in one trip will all become easier on you and your body with a well-trained core. When you have a strong core, it allows other muscles of the upper and lower parts of your body to function better.
Now that we understand what makes up our core as well as the everyday benefits of having a strong one... you're probably left with one remaining question:
How do I achieve a strong core?
A good place to start building a stronger core is by utilizing Dr. Stuart McGill’s Big 3 exercises: Curl-up, the side plank and the Bird-dog. Designed to increase the endurance of the core musculature, these exercises are low intensity and very safe for everyone to perform.
Don't tuck your chin or let your head fall back.
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