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The Core of the Matter: Your Core Strength

Get to know your inner core- it’s a matter of good health

“Core strength” is a buzzword you’ve heard at the gym, at yoga, and on TV. Do you actually know what it means? Many think core training is a fancy way of toning your abs with an endless amount of sit-ups. Your chiropractor will teach you that there is so much more to core training than crunches and a toned tummy.

What is core strength?

Think of your core muscles as the strong central link that connects your upper and lower body. Almost all activities we do in our day-to-day lives require activation of the core. Whether you’re vacuuming or playing golf, the necessary motion for these activities either starts in your core or moves through it.

No matter where motion for such movement begins, they will ripple up and down your body’s biomechanical chain. This is precisely why weak or inflexible core muscles can hinder how well your arms and legs function. Weakness and inflexibility decrease the power and efficiency of many of the moves your body will make. Properly strengthening your core amplifies your power. A strong core also enhances balance and spinal stability, imperative in preventing falls and injuries.

Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine your fitness efforts and back health. And while it’s important to build core strength, it’s unwise to aim all your efforts at developing rippling abs. Overtraining abdominal muscles while neglecting muscles of the back and hip can set you up for dysfunctional movement patterns which can lead to injuries.

Your core is central to your everyday life!

Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a well-rounded fitness program, consider including core exercises in the mix as well. Aside from occasional sit-ups and pushups, however, core exercises are often neglected. It pays to get your core muscles (the muscles around your trunk and pelvis) in better shape.

Here are examples of how your core plays a role in daily life:

Balance and stability:

Your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction. It helps you on the bumpiest terrain and stand in one spot without losing your balance. A strong and stable core can decrease your risk of falling.

Day-to-day living:

Bending to put on shoes or picking something up, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or even standing still – these are examples of the many routine actions that rely on your core. You may not notice this until they become difficult or painful. Even other basic activities like bathing or dressing call on your core strength.

On-the-job tasks

Jobs that involve lifting, twisting, and standing all rely on core muscles. A less obvious task, like sitting at your desk for hours, engages your core as well. Phone calls, typing, computer use and similar work can make back muscles very stiff and sore. Pain and stiffness can creep up quickly especially if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and are not taking sufficient breaks.

A healthy back:

Low back pain affects up to 80% of the population and can be debilitating. It is also a major contributor to workplace absence. Low back pain can be prevented through proper alignment and exercise that promotes well-balanced and strong core muscles. When low back pain strikes, chiropractic care is often prescribed to alleviate pain and then core exercises coupled with massage therapy may be necessary to strengthen further and stabilize. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, low back, hips and abdomen to work harmoniously.

Good posture:

Weak core muscles contribute to slouching. Good posture trims your silhouette and projects confidence. More importantly, it lessens wear and tear on the spine and allows you to breathe deeply. Good posture helps with better body mechanics and will bring ease with the effort you put into exercising too!

Sports and other hobbies:

Golfing, yoga, baseball, tennis, biking, running, skating, swimming, volleyball, paddling, skiing and pretty much all athletic activities are driven by a strong core. It’s often not mentioned or spoken about, but sexual activities require core power and flexibility as well.

Housework and gardening:

Bending, lifting, shovelling, raking, painting, twisting, carrying, hammering, reaching overhead and even vacuuming, mopping, and dusting are common chores that depend on the core.

Whether you’re a beginner taking the first steps toward back health or a dedicated fitness enthusiast hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness program is the best way to reach your fitness goals.

How does one train their core?

Core exercise and training do not require specialized equipment or a gym membership. Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. For example, using free weights in a manner that involves maintaining a stable trunk can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including your core muscles.

You may also try incorporating specific core exercises to stabilize and strengthen your core. Some examples include planks, sit-ups and fitness ball exercises. Fitness exercises that have an element of instability (achieved using exercise and Bosu balls) are wonderful for challenging your core while enhancing balance and stability.

For more ideas on where to start with core exercises head to our YouTube channel and try the Core Exercises to help you get started. Be sure to ask your chiropractor or physiotherapist for assistance and guidance. For more information about our CURAVITA health team visit us online or follow us on social media @curavitahealth.