Your core is made up of more than your abdominal muscles, or abs. The muscles on the front side of your lower trunk (core) are just one side of the box-shaped core.
Muscle groups of the core
- Abdominals. The rectus abdominis is the muscle most people associate with a six-pack. It helps stabilize the internal organs. Known as the corset muscle because of its horizontal positioning, the transversus abdominis is another important abdominal muscle involved in movement and spine stabilization.
- Obliques. Located along the sides of the body, the internal and external obliques play a role in spinal protection and rotation.
- Back. The quadratus lumborum is a deep abdominal muscle located in the lower back. It extends from the lowest rib to the top of the pelvis. It’s commonly associated with back pain, posture, and mobility issues.
- Pelvic floor. The pelvic floor houses organs such as the urethra, bladder, intestines, cervix, it also includes connective tissues such as hamstrings, hip flexors, and abductors. Together, the pelvic floor muscles and tissues help with hip stabilization, urination, bowel movements, and more.
- Spine. The erector spinae and multifidus muscles are technically back muscles, but they’re both connected to basic movement via the spine.
- Glutes. The glutes are a group of three muscles in your backside that influence hip rotation and extension.
- Diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle typically associated with breathing, as it contracts and flattens during inhalation and exhalation. Located at the base of the chest, the diaphragm has openings that are also involved in digestive function and blood transportation to the heart.
Now that you have a basic understanding of core anatomy, here are 11 evidence-backed benefits of core strengthening.
Stabilizing the lower back
A 2017 study suggests a correlation between decreased core back muscle quality and aging. The researchers emphasize the need for intervention in older adults with back pain, particularly for people who are overweight.
Beginner core exercises may help strengthen your core back muscles, improve balance, and restore physical performance. Start with bridge lifts or toe taps before working up to more advanced exercises.
Everyone can benefit from increasing core stability and increases in flexibility. Learning to engage your core muscles can help you stay upright before a fall or sports injury.
Helping with balance
For many people, an occasional stumble or trip can be surprising but generally poses little to no danger to a person’s daily life. Other people taking certain medications or managing health conditions such as arthritis are more prone to coordination and balance problems on a regular basis. Another risk factor for poor balance is aging.
Older adults who complete daily core strength exercises benefit from improved balance, independence, and quality of life.
Supporting better posture
Many people unconsciously have poor posture from looking down at their phones or computers. This can lead to neck, shoulder, back, and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Strengthening your core muscles will improve posture over time.
Supporting better exercise form
In the same way that core exercises improve standing and sitting posture, core strength training has the potential to help your workout form.
Everyone should think about stability in terms of being able to complete tasks easily and independently.
Stability isn’t just about staying on two feet and preventing falls. Balance exercises that engage the core muscles can help you climb stairs, hold heavy objects, and stay coordinated as you age.
Making everyday movement easier
Engaging your core through intentional breath control and better posture can certainly offer benefits for everyday movements such as bending, lifting, and turning.
Helping to reduce or prevent pain
Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind when you have chronic pain, many studies tout the benefits of core strength training for back and hip pain. Although there are many causes of back pain, researchers know that there is a correlation between weakened core muscles, mobility issues, and back pain intensity.
Supporting strength training exercises
When you swing a tennis racket, kick a football, or pick up a toddler, your core should fire up before your limbs get to work. Prioritizing your core strength provides a solid foundation for the rest of your body, including the ability to perform weight bearing exercises correctly.
Making running easier
Since running engages core muscles in the hips, glutes, back, and spine, it’s possible that exercises targeting your core could benefit your running form, speed, and respiration.
Helping to reduce lower body injury
Core training can be particularly effective for adults 65 years and older who are at an increased risk of falling. Physical activity helps older adults overcome the fear of falling and fall-related problems.
If you’re having a hard time getting started with exercise because of a medical condition, lack of confidence or not knowing where to start working with a certified therapist can keep you motivated, accountable and give you additional advice on how to perform core exercises safely based on your physical abilities.