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The Importance of Core Strength and Stability Training

Posted by Brooke Grant
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The core muscles are the muscles in the torso and trunk of the body. Not only the major muscles of the abdomen in the front, and the spinal erectors in the back, but also the smaller, stabilizing muscles, including the obliques, the lateral muscles in the back, and the trapezius. Working together, this group of muscles surrounds, stabilizes, and protects the entire center of the body. In truth, although we use the term “core”, they are more accurately visualized as wrapping around the center of the body.

Because these muscles are used in every movement or posture that involves the spine, ribs, and pelvis, including simply sitting upright, they are critical for a variety of functions, many of which you may take for granted.

Here are just a few ways that we use our core muscles every day:

  • The pelvic floor. The core muscles strengthen and support the muscles of the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles are involved in continence, pregnancy and childbirth, and sexual performance.
  • Everyday tasks. Common chores like housework, childcare, gardening, and even cooking, are all made easier by having a stable center of gravity for lifting, reaching, and movement.
  • Sports and physical activities. Even sports and activities that we think of as mostly involving arms and legs, like running and racket sports, are impacted by the strength of our spine and abdomen for motivating and supporting movements.
  • Balance and stability. Loss of balance, lowered stability, and overall weakness are typically associated with aging, but often they are simply signs of weak core muscles and a lack of exercise.
  • Vasalva maneuver. This term refers to the process of holding one's breath and tightening the abdomen during the act of pushing or lifting. It is used reflexively during acts of heavy exertion, whether working out, having a child, or moving a heavy object.
  • Posture. Because the core muscles hold the upper body upright, a strong core lifts the chest and upper back and contracts the stomach.

As you can see, a strong, healthy core has a positive impact on the whole body. Some of the benefits of having strong core muscles include:

  • Increased safety through reduced risk of falling or slipping. Because the core muscles improve balance, most physical tasks can be accomplished with less risk of injury when we have a strong core.
  • Strong posture projects confidence. Studies show that having a confident posture and body position actually make a person feel more calm and self-assured on the inside.
  • Protection of the spine and organs. The muscles of the torso act as a shield for these critical parts of the body, defending them from accident and injury.
  • Enhanced sex. Yes, it's true! Even when sex isn't physically strenuous, men and women can enjoy more pleasurable, longer lasting sex when their abdomen and pelvic floor muscles are strong and flexible.

Despite the importance of these muscles, and the way they are engaged in normal movement and behavior, it is easy for them to get weaker over time. Desk-centered jobs, prolonged time in cars and commutes, and hours on the couch with Netflix and video games, all add up to a lifestyle in which these crucial muscles get weak from disuse. For optimum health now, and sustained fitness into old age, focus on exercising, strengthening, and protecting these muscles that do so much to strengthen and protect you.

 

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