Don’t Ignore Your Core

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Building a strong and stable core is arguably the most critical part of any exercise program—especially if you have plans on continuing to be mobile and fit well into your senior years.

At the same time, because the core itself is so complex and responsible for so many mechanical functions in our torsos, it is also arguably the most poorly understood component of fitness.

I blame a lot of this misunderstanding on all the Instagram photos of people pointing to their rock-hard six-packs alongside a hashtag like #coregoals, #hardcore or #shreddedcore. In all honesty, most of those photos should be tagged with #lowerbackpaingoals, but that is for another day.

Isn’t "Core" Really Just a Fancy Way of Saying "Abs"?

Let me make this clear right from the beginning—core strength is not all about your abs and it has very little to do with crunches or indeed your belly region in general!

The four muscles that you are seeing in those Instagram photos are:

  • The rectus abdominis: One big sheet of muscle tissue that runs from your breastbone down to your pelvis.

  • The external obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a forward direction.

  • The internal obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a backwards direction,

  • The transverses abdominis: Located deep in your abs, underneath the obliques.

But as you are probably guessing by now, the core goes far beyond these four abdominal muscles. The core includes muscles in your lower back, muscle bands that flank your spine, your pelvic floor, your diaphragm, and all around your hips. In total there are more than 15 muscles that make up your core and all of them are as important as your abs, if not more so.

Core strength has very little to do with crunches or your belly region in general.