The core muscles are the corset of muscles surrounding the back and abdomen. Here we explain the core muscles and the benefits of core strengthening. Core exercises are popular with elite and amateur level athletes for injury prevention and enhancing performance.
What are the core muscles?
- The core muscles are known as the powerhouse muscles. They provide a solid base upon which all other muscles can work upon to initiate movement.
- Strengthening the core muscles can be used for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and sports performance enhancement
- The core can be thought of as a cylinder of muscles around the inner surface of the abdomen.
There are 4 main muscle groups considered:
The deepest of all the abdominal muscles lying under the oblique abdominals and rectus abdominus (the 6-pack muscle!).
- It is this muscle that is considered to be the corset of muscle providing stability.
- It connects to the individual vertebrae of the lower (lumbar) spine and wraps right around each side to meet in the midline of the front of the abdomen.
- When contracted it functions to both increase the pressure inside the abdomen and pull tightly on the vertebrae themselves to provide exceptional stability to the spine.
This deep back muscle lies on either side of the spine and again connects to each individual lumbar vertebrae.
- It functions in extending (bending back) the spine as well as being an essential postural muscle keeping the spine upright.
The primary muscle for breathing, the domed diaphragm provides the top of the cylinder core.
- When the Transversus abdominus contracts, the diaphragm tightens to maintain pressure in the abdomen. Therefore it provides stability to the spine.
- The pelvic floor muscles provide a sling which runs from back to front. From the bottom tip of the spine (the tail bone) to the front of the pelvis.
- It contracts simultaneously with the transversus abdominus to form the bottom of the cylinder of muscles.
When all these muscles contract together they keep the spine in its most stable position. This is called the neutral zone and helps prevent injury.
The core muscles contract prior to any arm or leg movement. As a result, they function to keep the centre of the body rigid when moving.
The core muscle of people with low back pain often fail to contract just before their limbs move. Therefore, the spine is vulnerable to injury.
Benefits of core strengthening & stability
- Core strengthening is essential to prevent all forms of injury around the lower back area.
- By training the core the rest of the muscles in the area i.e. the hamstrings, gluteals, abdominal and back muscles all work more efficiently and together.
- Risk of injury caused by overactivity is reduced in any particular muscle group due to muscle imbalance.
Sports injury rehabilitation
- Core stability is an essential component of rehabilitation of low back pain, sacroiliac pain, and Gilmore’s Groin.
- It is also great to include for other injuries such as hamstring strain and shoulder pain, by providing stability beneath the muscles that provide movement,
- Whether you enjoy an occasional gym session or whether you’re an elite sportsperson, core stability should be part of your training regime.
- Working on your core can vastly improve balance. In addition, it can greatly improve the torsion (twisting) strength that can vastly increase ability and performance in such sports as throwing, tennis, badminton, squash, and swimming.
- The difference between having the edge in your chosen sport will time and time again comes down to your ability to maintain the most efficient functioning of your core muscles, hence it has been coined the powerhouse of the athlete.