Fitness professionals always tell us how important it is to “strengthen” and “engage” our core. But what is it exactly, how can you strengthen it, and why is it so vital to our overall fitness? Contrary to popular belief, your core is more than just your stomach muscles. Nearly 30 muscles make up the core. There are four small abdominal muscles; rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques and transverses abdomens. But the core also includes the muscles in your lower back, your hips and pelvic floor.
This helps to explain why we always finish class with the plank exercise. When doing the plank, your entire core is working to maintain the lifted posture strengthening the ever-important core muscles in your abs, back, and hips. Having a strong core is important to maintaining good balance, posture and overall strength and is where your center of gravity is. When your core muscles are weak, it is more difficult to take deep breaths, lift heavier weights or exercise at a greater intensity. Other reasons to strengthen your core are that it stabilizes you, makes you look taller and leaner, improves your performance, reduces back pain and aids in overall health. Harvard Medical School professor Edward Phillips says that the benefits of a stronger core are that it is the basis for almost everything you do. From bending over to put on shoes to sports to general every day tasks; it all is supported by the core. And you would be remiss in just focusing on just achieving six-pack abs and neglecting the back and hip muscles. Working on the overall core will set you up to have a healthier and fitter body.