What is Your Core?

Many people think that doing 200 sit-ups a day will help build a six-pack abs and strengthen your core. Well what exactly is your core? Your core is not just your abdominals. There are 29 muscles involved in your core musculature that support the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex in order to stabilize the spine, pelvis and functional movements (Faries and Greenwood 2007). Have you ever heard of your transverses abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus, gluteus maximus, or your external obliques? These are a few of the major muscles included in your core. Actually, your core helps with proper posture, stability, balance, optimal performance, but also helps reduced injuries (McGill 2010). A weak core could be detrimental to the performance of an athlete, could inhibit the healing of injures, or could decrease the ability to perform daily functional activities.

The purposes of basic core strengthening are to increase stability, to gain coordination and timing of the deep abdominal wall musculature, and to reduce and prevent injury (Faries and Greenwood 2007). Having a strong core can also improve functionality in most daily living tasks and sports which demand that power be generated at the hips and transmitted through a stiffened core. Do not focus on training only the front side of your body (abs) but incorporate exercises that work your core as a “whole”; front, back, and side of body. Most importantly, core training should incorporate progression and specificity. Proper technique and body mechanics are crucial when training the core, not only to prevent injury, but also to effectively engage the proper muscles and be a more challenging workout.

Instead of the common exercise the “Superman,” which imposes more compressive load on the spine from excessive hyperextension, try the “Birddog” exercise. The “Birddog” enhances the contraction levels of the core and lowers the load on the spine. A more advanced core exercise that requires progression is the Overhead Press. One can start with the 2-feet standing and progress to a staggered stance, a single-leg stance and then to a stability device and even adding a trunk rotation.

Do you need help training your core? Contact Abbey at the Rec Sports & Fitness Office.


Faries, M. and Greenwood, M. Core Training: Stabilizing the Confusion. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 29: 10-25. 2007.

McGill, S. Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 32: 33-46. 2010.

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