Tips & Techniques

Learn More About Your Core

April Flood 
March 1, 2024

Learn More About Your Core 

When you think “core”, many people think “6-pack abs” or “washboard abs”. The muscle you are thinking about is called your rectus abdominus, and while it may look cool, it is not the group of core muscles that are the most functional or useful for sports or daily activities even. The rectus abdominal muscles are responsible for bending your trunk forward. But there are many other layers of core muscles that will stabilize your spine and play a big role in stability, balance, and force production. If you are not incorporating core strengthening into your sport or exercise routine, you are missing a big component of what you can do to prevent injuries or up your game in your sport. 

Taking a look at the anatomy of your “Core” 

You have superficial core muscles (closer to the surface) that are important in force production and produce movement from your rib cage to pelvis and extremities. The deeper core muscles attach to your spine and play a big role in the stability of your spine. 

Why the core is important 

Your core is important for distributing forces from your upper body to lower body, generating force, and stabilizing your spine. First things first, the core is often an undervalued and underutilized part of the body in training, but it is a big component of injury prevention and improving your game in your sport or activity. The core is responsible for engaging to absorb force from the ground when you run or before impact in a contact sport, produce force for throwing or golfing, and keeping balance with things like yoga, dance, or gymnastics. In other words, everyone could benefit from a little extra attention to your core. If you neglect training or have muscle imbalances of these deeper core muscles, it can result in increased loading pressures on the spine, compensations that result in other injuries or muscle strains, or injury to your spine, which will then take you out of running or your sport longer. 

What can you do 

If you are not already incorporating any core strengthening into your training or routine, try to set aside even 1-2 min at the start or end of each training session or run. There is no shortage of core strengthening activities, but you want to find the one that is right for you. You can work toward exercises that are sport specific. Here are a few exercises that can easily be modified to make more difficult or less difficult depending on your needs: 

  • Dead bug 

○ Lay on your back with your back pressed flat against the floor/bed. Raise your arms straight up in front of you and your legs straight up with your knees bent. Now extend one arm and your opposite leg away from the center, then return and switch. Make sure your back stays flat throughout the whole movement!

  • Plank 

○ On your hands or your elbows, keep a straight line from your head to hips to ankles 

■ If this is too difficult, drop down to your knees

■ If this is too easy, lift an arm or a leg, or one of each 

  • Bird-dog 

○ On your hands and knees, keep your core engaged and keep a straight line from your head to your hips. Next, lift an opposite arm and opposite leg without letting your weight shift 

○ If this is too difficult, stick with just the arms or just the legs first 

*If you have pain in your back when you are doing a core exercise, that likely means that it is too demanding and you might need to back down.

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