Out of all our muscle groups in our body, our core might just be the most important. Our core keeps our lower back healthy and keeps us stable. Many people think that our abs are the same thing as our core. Core and abdominals seem to be interchangeable in today’s world. The truth is they are different to some degree. All ab work is a core exercise but not all core work involves the abs. For a better understanding of our core we have to look at the muscles and the functions of these muscles.
Our core is comprised of a couple muscles including the rectus abdominis, transversus abdomininis, multifidus muscles, internal and external obliques, quadratus lumboum, spinal erectors, and gluteal, hamstring, and hip rotator groups. Simply put, these are our abdominal, back, lower back, and muscles that cross the hip joint. Our core acts as a link between our upper and lower body that allows us to transfer power between the two.
Now that we know what the core is comprised of, we must answer what its main functions are. Like stated above it acts as a link between our lower and upper body. While classic thinking leads us to believe that the abs and the muscles surrounding are responsible for flexing while the muscles of the lower back are responsible for extension. This popular theory and our understanding of other muscles in the body leads us to believe this. However, we should rethink this. Our core muscles play a major part in our posture. When a person comes to us with poor posture, a major weakness we see is in the core. Clients tell us that they do sit ups and other ab exercises but nothing changes. We then conclude that instead of flexion and extension; maybe antiflexion and antiextension are the real functions. In the simplest of terms our core is prevention of any kind of motion. When these core muscles are trained, we see clients standing, sitting up straighter as well as in increase in balance and coordination. There are 3 major categories of motions that the core is responsible for:
1. Antiextension- prevention of leaning back
· Exercises such as planks and rollouts
2. Antilateral flexion- prevention of leaning to one side
· Exercises such as side planks, farmers walks, or any weighted twists
3. Antirotation- prevention of twisting
· Exercises involving movement in the plank
Proper training of all three functions will result in what we stated before; better posture, batter balance, and improved coordination. While everyone can benefit from smarter core training, to an athlete is imperative. In every sport there is some type of transfer in power between the lower body and upper body. Having a strong core ensures that that transfer is smooth, powerful, and coordinated.