The Importance of Exercising Your Core

stomach musclesYour six pack (or two pack or four pack) is a group of four sets of muscles with tongue twisting names; rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, external obliques and the internal obliques.

These muscle groups are positioned on the front and sides of your torso and are attached to bony surfaces on the rib cage and the pelvis.

The deepest of the abdominal muscles are the transverse abdominus. They provide stability to the core of the body by wrapping around the trunk holding all of your insides “inside.” These are the muscles that provide you with a tight, flat, tummy.

The internal and external oblique muscles run diagonally across the torso so you can rotate and move at different angles following the paths that the muscle fibers run in.

Every time you twist your upper body or bend sideways you are using these muscles. Daily living involves twisting to some degree…around the house, at work or in most physical activities there are many different combinations of bends and twists.

Many sports such as tennis, cricket or golf all require the rotation of the middle of your body…sometimes at top speed in order to generate maximum power. Hitting a golf ball a long distance requires tremendous power and is an example of this movement.

The old fashioned way of performing abdominal exercise involved isolating and working just the muscle that is known as the “six pack”…the rectus abdominus.

However, the more we understand how the human body operates, the more we see that isolating and emphasizing any single body part of group of muscles during exercise the less we are able to benefit by treating the body as one whole unit.

This knowledge led to a new buzz word for abdominal exercise referred to as ”core” training. Rather than an isolated movement the whole “core” is exercises as a complete unit. This involves specific exercises for all the abdominal muscles mentioned above along with the muscles in your back, chest, hips, pelvis and upper thighs.

Because of the important relationship between the lower back muscles called erector spinae and the abdominal’s (it has been estimated that two thirds of back strength actually comes from the abdominal muscles) the lower back is exercised as part of the “core.”

They work together but in an opposing fashion, neither one works effectively unless the other is working effectively also…one compliments the other.

Every time you bend over to pick something up off the ground, it is your abdominal muscle action that allows you to bend but the lower back muscles are the ones that allow you to return to the upright position again.

It is therefore, imperative that these muscle groups are exercised together.

The worst thing you can do is focus solely on the abdominal muscles making them stronger than your back muscles because you will upset the balance and allow injury to the weaker lower back muscles as well as open the door to poor posture.

All bodily movements originate from the body core…whether performing a simple task like brushing your hair or a more strenuous activity like climbing a mountain.

Allowing strength, stability and flexibility of this central part of the body to deteriorate has a very limiting effect on our physical capabilities.

The added benefit of using core strengthening exercises is that your whole body workout routines will have improved strength and flexibility for the limbs. Each time a movement is initiated the abdominal muscles spring into action first to stabilize the body before any leg or arm muscles get fired up.

The best way to train your abdominal muscles is to train them as part of the whole “core” unit. Don’t view your abs as a separate body part…but view it as part of a group whose united purpose is to move and protect the spine and pelvis.

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