You've probably heard trainers talk about getting a strong and stable core during your favorite workout classes (and on social media), but you may be wondering what exactly they mean and why a stable core is important. To help you better understand why a strong and stable core is important, we reached out to the fitness pros.
"The well-trained core is essential for optimal performance and injury prevention," Stuart McGill, PhD, said in a 2010 review in the Strength and Conditioning Journal. Simply put, "The core is the powerhouse of your body," Kira Stokes, a NASM-certified trainer based out of New York City, told POPSUGAR. "It plays a huge role not only in workouts, but in everyday activities from getting out of bed to opening the car door," Stokes added. A strong core can sometimes appear as defined and sculpted abs, but having a six-pack isn't a prerequisite for core strength.
The Muscles That Make Up Your Core
The rectus abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as the six-pack muscles, are one of many muscle groups that make up your core. According to Dr. McGill, your core is composed of the lumbar spine, the muscles of the abdominal wall, the back extensors (these muscles attach to your spine and enable you to stand and lift things up), and the quadratus lumborum (your deepest abdominal muscles located on both sides of your lower back).
Your lats and psoas muscles (located in the lumbar region of your spine and extends from your pelvis to your femur; the thigh muscle) pass through your abdominal muscles and connect them to your pelvis, legs, shoulders, and arms.
In theory, whenever you push, pull, lift, or carry something, your core should be supporting these movements, but there are people who have difficulty getting their core muscles to activate and fire effectively. To find out if your core is working as it should, we recommend working with a specialist such as a physical therapist.
According to Stokes, learning how to activate, engage, and strengthen your core "can help you move through life and workouts safely and effectively by improving balance, coordination, and power output." Having a strong core can also help improve your posture and prevent back pain.
How to Get a Strong Core
Now that you know the benefits of having a strong and stable core, it's time to put your new knowledge to the test. There are a bunch of movements you can do to stabilize your core, and Stokes recommends the high plank or elbow plank, dead bug, bird dog, and the glute bridge. Dr. McGill recommends exercises such as the modified curl-up, side bridge, side plank, and bird dog for core strength and stability.
Adding these movements into your existing workout routine can help you improve your core strength and stability in time. If you'd like more help as you execute each movement, consult an expert like a personal trainer.