As more people start to take health and fitness more seriously, buzzwords start to appear more frequently. Yes you are trying to get a more nutritious diet, but are you getting your macros? You’re getting your probiotics, but are you getting your prebiotics? You’re doing a work out at the gym, but is it HIIT? You’re doing exercise, but are you stabilising your core?
It can be difficult to decipher whether something that very fit people who spend a lot of time in the gym find necessary, is necessary for all of us. So what is core strength and is it important for all of us, or just professional athletes and gym bunnies? Is core strength just about ‘rock hard abs’? Does it have any real world benefits?
What is core strength?
The muscles that help you achieve a ‘strong core’ sit deep within your muscular system, they stabilize your spinal column and pelvis. Core strength exercises would focus on muscles like your diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidi, deep cervical flexors, and transverse abdominus. Some of your core muscles may be weaker than others and so need more work than others. A physiotherapist would be able to identify which muscles specifically are causing you problems. In short, a ‘weak core’ could mean many things. The term ‘core strength’ is thrown about a lot, particularly by personal trainers but is not a medical term. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll refer to these deep, stabilizing muscles as your ‘core’.
Why should I have a strong core?
- Improve your sports performance. Having a strong core will help you move in a more controlled way. To produce force in your limbs, you need to have a stable core. Core strength is particularly important for sports like golf, tennis, running, swimming, cycling or rowing.
- Everyday activities become easier. Bending down to pick things up, getting up off a low chair and reaching overhead become easier with a strong core. You’ll feel the benefits when you’re hoovering or gardening. A strong core will also help you in activities that require stability, power and flexibility, like sex!
- Your balance improves. Your core stabilizes your body. If you find it easy to stand on one leg while keeping your body stable, you’re less likely to become injured or have a fall.
- Your posture improves. With a good posture, weight is distributed evenly along your spine. A strong core helps your body achieve this. If you have a weak core and your pelvis is tilting too far backwards or forwards, you may start to experience low back pain. Correct posture will not only help you reduce back pain, it’ll make you look better, and be able to breathe easier.
How do I know if my core is weak?
A good strong core is good for everybody to aim for, but how do you know what state your core muscles are in? They aren’t as obvious as exterior muscles like your biceps!
- Lower back pain. A weak core can cause or contribute to back pain.
- You slouch. If you slouch frequently, the muscles around your torso could be having a hard time supporting your spine and keeping you upright.
- You have poor balance. If you can’t stand on one leg comfortably with your eyes closed for ten seconds you could have problems with a weak core.
- Try planking. Lie face down and support yourself with your elbows at a 90 degree angle from your body. Keep your body straight, just like in the picture below. If you can’t hold yourself up for a minute, your core strength could do with some work.
Strengthening your core can improve your physical ability and confidence. Working on your core strength can help you prevent simple activities like getting dressed or getting in and out of a bath becoming painful. If you feel like an injury or muscle weakness is causing you pain and stopping you from doing things you used to find easy, give us a call on 0114 268 6677 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.