As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I always had coaches and trainers telling me how important it is to have a strong core and to engage it while performing various exercises and skills. I thought I knew exactly what that meant, but after taking countless anatomy classes and plenty of extensive seminars, I now realize that there is a lot more to the core than I thought…
The core takes on the shape of a cylinder and has a top, a bottom and a surrounding outer face. It can be divided into 4 groups of muscles and soft tissue structures that all work together in order to provide stability and mobility throughout the center of the body.
At the top of the core is a dome shaped muscle called the diaphragm, which acts as a primary muscle of respiration (breathing). At the bottom of the core sits a group of muscles known as the pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor allows for proper function of our pelvic, urinary and reproductive organs. It is important to recognize the relationship between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. During normal breathing, the two simultaneously lower and raise together while maintaining intra-abdominal pressures.
Lastly, the transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles make up the surrounding face of the cylinder that is the core. If these muscles are neglected and weakened, it can lead to poor posture and decreased stability within your spine that can cause pain, discomfort or increased susceptibility to injury.
There are many reasons why you should keep a strong core. A strong core improves posture and spinal stability, promotes a healthy pelvic floor and allows for efficient breathing. On the other hand, a weak pelvic floor can result in many different symptoms including constipation, straining during defecation, urine or stool leakage and frequent urination, just to name a few.
Listed below are a few basic exercises that you can perform at the gym or at home to train your core and is merely a starting place to work your way up to more challenging movements