Having core strength is essential to much more than those six-pack abs (which, hey, can be a pretty nice bonus). Your core is the center of who you are. The core muscles are the central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a volleyball or sweeping the floor, the motions originate in the core.
Regardless of where the motion begins, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain, out of the center core.
So to put it simply, your core muscles affect your entire body.
If these muscles are weak, it makes moving the other muscles/conducting other movements more difficult, from picking up a grocery bag to throwing a punch. A strong core also enhances balance and stability, helping prevent falls and injuries.
What Is Your Core?
Your core encompasses your entire torso, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think “abs”), transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), erector spinae (a set of muscles in your lower back), and the internal and external obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen). It is responsible for supporting you through many of the movements that you take for granted every day, even sitting up.
Increased core strength has the potential to strengthen your entire body while giving you greater stabilization.
Benefits of Core Strength
1. Balance and stability
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. Your core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move in any direction, or stand in one spot without losing your balance. This leads to better balance and stability, whether while in Warrior III, or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.
2. Decreases Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain affects many of us, four out of five Americans at some point in their lives to be exact, especially those who spend long hours hunched over their computer. Those long hours spent sitting down (and potentially in a high-stress state) place substantial strain on the lower back, especially if those muscles aren’t engaged properly. By increasing your core strength, you can significantly decrease the intensity of back pain or even eliminate it altogether.
3. Easier Everyday Tasks
Bending to put on shoes or pick up a package, turning to look behind you, sitting in a chair, or simply standing still all rely on core strength. Even basic, daily activities, like bathing, getting dressed, or taking out the trash call on your core.
Improved core strength can make all of those tasks easier, decreasing the pain you experience and allowing you to get through more things with ease.
4. More Fun Playing Sports or Exploring Outdoor Activities
Golfing, tennis, biking, running, swimming, baseball, volleyball, kayaking, and many other athletic activities are powered by a strong core. Even sexual activities call for core strength and flexibility too.
5. Better posture
Weak core muscles contribute to slouching, as there is no strength to hold the body upright in proper alignment. Something we are all after is good posture. Good posture lessens wear and tear on the spine, allows us to breathe deeply, avoid injury, and naturally trims our silhouette. Energetically, good posture helps us appear confident, capable, and powerful. When we improve our core strength, we are more likely to stand straighter with proper posture.
6. Decreased Risk of Injury
Increased core strength means better balance and overall stability. This makes you less likely to injure yourself. When you build core strength, you’ll be able to perform your daily routines, like pick up your kids or bring a package inside, with lower risk of both acute and repetitive stress injury.
As you can see, the importance of core strength applies to all of us every single day. This is why core muscles are used in every Pilates exercise. The core is either the main focus of the exercise, or used for support when moving and working other areas of the body. Some exercises require more core focus than others, but some effort is always there.
Pilates also targets all of the muscles associated with the core. Sit-ups and other standard crunches only use the outer layers of the abdominals, and often the hip flexors (which actually end up taking some of the strenuous strengthening away from the core). The true core muscles run deep and include some lower back muscles. Pilates teaches you how to properly engage and utilize all of the core muscles, not simply the ones targeted in a traditional crunch.
Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles keep you from reaching your highest potential. And while it’s important to build a strong core, it’s important to take a holistic approach.
Overtraining abdominal muscles (looking for those abs), while disregarding muscles of the back and hip can set you up for injuries and body imbalance. Remember, everything in the body is connected. We’re looking for fluid balance.
This is where yoga comes in. Yoga allows us to look at the body in a holistic sense – mind, body, and spirit. The physical practice of yoga encompasses full body movements coupled with mind-body awareness, allowing you to fully harness the different muscles in the body for a deeper impact.