Core strength is one of those terms we hear a lot and know is good for us. And in this first part of a two-part core strength special I’ll be explaining what core strength is and its importance to us all. I’ll also provide a couple of quick tips on how you can improve yours, ahead of next week’s article which will showcase some core-strengthening exercises.
What Is Your Core?
If you look at a human skeleton you will see lots of strong bones giving our body structure and form. But if you look around the belly area you will see quite a big gap! In fact, the entire upper body is balancing precariously on a relatively narrow spine. And if you think about it that’s not a very strong design. Just think of all the forces trying to bend and twist and knock the spine out of shape. No wonder so many of us have back problems!
So, to compensate, our body has evolved lots of strong muscle to fill this gap. These are our core muscles.
What Do The Core Muscles Do?
Whenever we move or do things through the day, forces try to knock the spine out of shape. And our core muscles work hard to control our spine and keep it in a structurally sound position.
More often than not, this position means keeping the spine straight – if they don’t do this important job, our spine will bend, twist and kink out of shape.
What Happens If We Have A Weak Core?
Reduced athletic performance
If you’re the sporty type, a weak core will mean you can’t perform as well as you might. You won’t be as fast, strong or efficient. And your technique will suffer too. Without your core acting as a strong foundation, anything else you try to do will be let down.
Less able to do everyday jobs.
And the less sporty of us will suffer in the same way. We all have to do physical things throughout our lives, and if we have a weak core all these everyday tasks will become harder to do.
Remember, the core muscles act as support to your lower spine. Without that support, your lower back will take all the strain of everything we do. And it’s not just the pain of a bad back that causes problems, a wonky spine has lots of knock-on effects to almost everything else we do in our day-to-day lives.
Less balance and coordination
Without a strong core, it’s harder to keep our bodies upright and tall. This “floppy” body increases the risk of losing balance, taking falls and sustaining injuries. And this is true regardless of how fit and strong you think you are. My clients who come to the Friday Skipton Stroke Rehab class (click here for details) need a strong core to help them stand and walk well, while netballers need it so they don’t crumple after they jump for the ball (click here to see how a strong back helps netball players).
How To Improve Your Core?
The answer to this can be split into two parts:
- Strengthening the muscles
Stronger muscles in and around the core mean they can take the strain of not only everyday life and activity, but also any emergencies, such as slipping on some winter ice. So various forms of weight training or resistance training will help you get a stronger, more robust core.
I will take you through some simple but effective exercises for the core in next week’s article.
- Improving habits
There is no point having “abz of steel” if they’re not switched on and put to good use. I know plenty of people who have strong core muscles but who still suffer injury because they don’t actually use them! So having good posture and learning ‘correct’ movement habits will keep you protected and performing well throughout the day.
Good habits include the simple things like sitting and standing with a tall, straight back and avoiding slouching. Again, I will go more into these in next week’s article.
So that is a quick introduction to what core strength and stability is all about. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below. And check back next week for five awesome exercises to give you a stronger core!