A flat stomach and six-pack abs may be the typical symbol of strength and fitness, but in reality, the abdominals are only part of a much larger interconnected area of muscles, called the core, that we use for most body movements. Looking for relief from low back pain? Strengthening your core may help. Want to improve your posture and balance? Try improving your core strength. Would you like to reduce your risk of injury during sports or just everyday activities? Better core strength can help with that, too.
Abdominal vs. Core Muscles
Your abdominals, or abs, are located on the front of your stomach. They’re the “six-pack” muscles so many people strive to achieve by doing tons of crunches and sit-ups. However, overworking the abdominals without strengthening the rest of the core can create imbalances that lead to pain and injury.
Your core includes all the muscles that wrap around your midsection, including the obliques (side muscles), erector spinae (back muscles) and glutes. These core muscles support the spine and allow it to bend, twist and straighten. That’s why it’s important to do exercises that strengthen the entire core, rather than just one or two sets of muscles.
Benefits of Good Core Strength
Make everyday activities easier
Because the core consists of so many muscles that connect every part of our bodies, we use it for virtually everything we do. Whether you’re sitting at your desk at work, bending over to put on your shoes or just reaching down to pick something up off the floor, your core muscles play a part.
Without core muscles, our spines would just lay in a pile on the floor, so a strong core is key for good balance and stability. This isn’t just important as we age to prevent falls, it’s also beneficial to anyone who stands or sits for long periods of time or who enjoys activities like hiking, skiing or cycling, just to name a few.
A strong core will help you sit and stand with a straight back and shoulders. While this can make you look a little taller and thinner, which is always nice, the real benefit is preventing the back pain that comes from slouching shoulders, an arched back and tilted pelvis.
Relieve back pain
Approximately 80% of Americans experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and strengthening the core muscles is often prescribed as one form of treatment. Keep this muscle group well-balanced and strong can help keep your back moving freely and pain-free.
Improve sports performance and endurance
Even if you’re not an elite athlete, a strong core makes it easier and safer to enjoy activities like running, cycling, weight lifting, golfing, swimming, tennis, kayaking, baseball and others. You’ll be able to make it through a long workout or game without back pain or overworking muscles that compensate for a weak core.
Better balance reduces your risk of falls, and strengthening your back also helps avoid strained muscles when lifting or moving heavy items. You can also make quick movements without the worry of pulling or straining something, whether you’re playing sports or during everyday life.
Now you know: Better overall fitness starts with a strong core!