What is your core?
Contrary to popular belief, your core is made of far more muscles than the famous six-pack we think of when someone mentions strengthening your core. Your core is comprised of the deep muscles in your trunk, abdominals, pelvis, and hip region (transverse abdominis, internal & external obliques, erector spinae, multifidus, quadratus lumborum and pelvic floor muscles, to be exact). Core stability is the coordinated effort of these deep muscles and the smaller muscles along the spine which contract together to hold the spinal column in alignment. Their endurance along with co-contraction is required to maintain posture and stabilize the spinal column during activities.
Why do you need to train your core?
Training your core aids in injury prevention, reduces lower back pain & fatigue, enhances performance & whole-body strength, and increases stability (and, yes, it also helps develop that widely desired six-pack).
Our core muscles play a role in nearly every day-to-day activity you can think of. Whether walking, standing, grabbing groceries from the trunk of the car, bending over to tie your shoe, or even just sitting upright, your core is being put to work, so it must be able to work under load for long periods of time. For those who lack core stability, there are often consequences that affect daily life: back pain, poor posture, and heightened risk of injury, to give a few examples.
Why aren’t crunches alone enough?
Many people looking to develop strong, photogenic abs perform crunches to achieve this goal. Crunches by themselves, however, will not develop a strong core, nor will they “spot train” the weight off your belly. Crunches will create a “pretty” tummy (assuming there is not a layer of fat on top). But crunches do not involve the deeper muscles used to stabilize the torso and pelvis. These stabilizing muscles are important to reduce risk of injury in everyday activity, help alleviate lower back pain, etc. This is the reason why simple crunches just don’t cut it! To create “core stability” we need to challenge and strengthen ALL the muscles large and small, seen and unseen, that make up the core. This requires you to do a variety of core exercises. Here are some alternative core exercises you can add to your workouts to increase your core stability (and maybe even achieve that dream physique).