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One of the hot buzzwords flying around the gym these days is 'core strength.' While dancers and athletes have long known the advantages of having a strong torso, the idea of core strength is only now trickling down to the rest of us.
You may be wondering what exactly is core strength and why should you worry about it? One reason is this: all of our movements are powered by the torso--the abs and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, exercise and more. The torso is the body's center of power, so the stronger you are in that area, the easier your life will be.
What Is The Core?
When someone talks about the core, they're referring the muscles deep within the abs and back, attaching to the spine or pelvis. Some of these muscles include the transversus abdominis (TVA), the muscles of the pelvic floor, the lats and the obliques, just to name a few. These muscles are where movement originates and it's also the source of our stability. Whether you're running, lifting weights or picking up your toddler, these 'core' muscles help keep your body stable and balanced.
With this focus on core strength, the fitness industry has moved towards training the body as a whole, rather than focusing on separate muscle groups. This means incorporating torso training throughout your workout, rather than just doing the usual standard crunches. This type of functional training can be seen everywhere as more people use things like stability balls and wobble boards in their regular workouts.
Core training has many benefits including: •More functional workouts that translate into daily life activities •Improved performance in sports •Reduction in the risk of injury •Better ability to function each day •Interesting workouts that challenge you in new and different ways
Adding more functional training to your workouts is a simple matter. Read on to find out easy ways to increase your core strength.
Core exercises stabilize the spine Hamish Blair / Getty Images
The best core exercises may surprise you. It's not enough to just do ab crunches and sit ups. To build a strong core you need to exercise a variety of muscles from your hips to your shoulders. Most people think of the core as a nice six-pack, or strong, toned abs, but the truth is that the abdominal muscles are a very small part of the core. The abs have very limited and specific action, and what experts refer to as the "core" actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. When these muscles contract, they stabilize the spine, pelvis and shoulder girdle and create a solid base of support. When this happens, we are able to generate powerful movements of the extremities. The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back. Core conditioning exercise programs need to target all these muscle groups to be effective.
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