Importance of Strong Core Muscles

Feb 24 | , , , ,

Everything you do in your day-to-day life, whether it be climbing the stairs in your home or simply standing upright, relies on the importance of strong core muscles. The strength in your abdominal muscles can often act like a chain-link between your upper and lower body and help you perform compound movements that engage your entire body.

The core muscles have the important role of stabilizing your body while your arms and legs move. Inflexible and weak core muscles can significantly hinder your everyday movements and activities, which can make even the simplest of tasks difficult. Let’s take a look at what muscles actually make up your core, a few ways to build these core muscles, and why they’re so important by taking a look at some of the benefits you can gain from having strong abdominal muscles.

What Are Core Muscles

While most people refer to core muscles as “abs” or abdominals, the core is much more than that. There are four main abdominal muscle groups that work together and include the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, internal oblique muscles, and external oblique muscles.

Just by the names of these muscle groups, you can see that the core muscle group includes not only your abs, but muscles deep into your pelvis and hip bones. The multifidus is also included in this core muscle group, and runs along the spine deep into your back. Each one of these unique and interconnected muscle groups plays a key role in helping to provide support to the trunk of the body and provide the adequate connection for movements between the upper and lower body to perform everyday activities.

The diaphragm is a very important part of the core muscles, forming the “roof” over your abdomen. Like the other muscles in the group, it is not supposed to be rigidly held tight all of the time, you need time to breathe. Good core strength means good breathing patterns and efficient activation of these muscles when you need them.

These core abdomen muscle groups not only provide the ability to link movements between the upper and lower body, but provide important stability, support, and protection to reduce the likelihood of injuries or strains when attempting to perform everyday movements like bending, sitting, standing, and picking objects up.

Why Are Strong Core Muscles Important?

Many people see core muscles as rippling defined abs, but you don’t need to be an athlete with a 6-pack to have a strong core. In fact, overtraining your abdominals while ignoring the other important parts of the core muscle group can lead to injury and actually hinder your ability to progress.

Weak core muscles and poor movement patterns are some of the leading contributors to a large number of injuries and also one of the primary reasons for lower back pain and spinal issues.

Core muscles are important because they help to support the trunk of your body, enable compound movements between the upper and lower body, keep the body balanced for complex movements, and provide important protection for your back and spine when performing everyday movements.

The Benefits of Strong Core Muscles

Our core muscles play a key role in nearly every activity we do throughout the day and we can often take it for granted when we don’t think about it. For instance, you’ll engage your core when you’re sitting in a chair, turning to look at something, picking up or putting down a package, and much more.

Weak core muscles can make mundane work tasks seem difficult as well, like sitting in the office at your desk or standing for extended periods of time when giving a presentation to a group of co-workers. Strong core muscles can provide many benefits for all the things you enjoy doing like playing sports with your friends and family or completing chores around the house. Strong abdominal muscles can also reduce the likelihood of injuries that can stem from weak core muscles that fail to provide adequate support when performing various movements.

Movements that utilize our core are embedded into our daily routines. Having a strong core might not eliminate all injuries, but in conjunction with good movement habits, they can help to alleviate pain and reduce the likelihood of future injuries when performing routine tasks. Strong core muscles can also provide additional benefits like improving one’s posture, stability, balance, and power for strength training.

Core Muscle Exercises

When you think of the phrase “core exercises,” you probably think of traditional crunches and situps. However, the best core muscle exercises are those that target the entire muscle group instead of the specific separate muscles. Before beginning any exercise, make sure you consult with a qualified healthcare professional. Working with a licensed physical therapist at one of our locations across the country can help you learn more about how your core plays an important role in everyday activities and ensure that you get the proper education on how to perform core muscle exercises with the proper technique.

The goal of core muscle exercises is to not only increase the strength of this muscle group as a whole, but increase the stability of your hips, shoulders, and torso. We’ve identified some great core muscle exercises that will help you strengthen your core and are easy to learn.

Plank

The plank is one of the tried and true core strengthening exercises and is one of the most popular activities for any exercise and treatment program. To begin this exercise, you’ll want to find a comfortable spot on the floor where you can hold your body upright on your forearms and the balls of your feet. Try to straighten your spine as if you were drawing a line from your shoulders to your heels and balance your weight evenly between your forearms to your feet. Hold this position for 30 seconds and rest for one minute. Repeat this activity between three to four sets. You can also contact your knees with the floor instead of the balls of your feet when starting out or if the normal position is too strenuous.

Hip Thrusts

To begin this exercise, you’ll want to lie comfortably on your back and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the ground and your hands at your sides with palms facing downward. Activate your glute muscles by squeezing them and then lift your hips off the floor towards the ceiling to create a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips, and to your knees. Then return to the starting position. Repeat this activity several times for several sets with a minute rest in-between each set.

Leg Raises

To begin this exercise, you’ll once again want to lie comfortably on your back with your arms at your sides and palms facing downward. Pick up your legs off the ground and raise them until your legs and body form a ninety-degree angle, and then return to the starting position. For added difficulty, you can keep your legs off the ground instead of placing them on the ground in between each repetition to keep the tension on your abdominal muscles when performing the exercise. Perform this maneuver several times for several sets with a minute rest in-between each set. An alternative method you can use for less difficulty is to lift one leg at a time and alternate each leg.

Avoid and Recover From Core Muscle Injuries with Physical Therapy

Your core muscles are a key component to nearly every activity throughout the day, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to injuries. Overstretching or overuse of any muscle can lead to strains and tears, and the same goes for your core. While these types of strains are most common in sports that require excessive twisting, anyone can experience the pain that comes with abdominal strains, weak core muscles, or other types of injuries that can stem from a weak core from everyday activities.

You can potentially avoid these potential strains and injuries by making sure you warm up properly before any kind of exercise, implementing effective stretches, ensuring proper technique when performing exercises or routine tasks, and cooling down at the end of a strenuous workout.

There are many ways you can keep your core muscles safe, like drinking plenty of water, stretching before and after exercise, and avoiding movements that increase the risk of muscle strain. The most important way, however, is to remember the importance of core muscles and how to continue to strengthen them.

Our licensed PTs are trained to evaluate, educate, and help you recover from abdominal muscle injuries from weak core muscles and over 100 other conditions. Physical therapy can be an effective way to avoid and recover from core muscle injuries with a focus on ensuring proper form when performing everyday activities, education on ways to reduce the likelihood of future core injuries, and helping you reach your goals with a unique treatment program.

Schedule an appointment today at one of our physical therapy clinics near you to learn how physical therapy can help you with your core muscle injuries.

 

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  2. “The Real-World Benefits of Strengthening Your Core.” Harvard Health, 24 Jan. 2012, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core.
  3. Core Stability: What Is It and Why Is It Important? https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2018/07/core-stability.
  4. “Abdominal Muscles: Anatomy and Function.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21755-abdominal-muscles.