There’s a common myth floating around gyms, the internet, rehab facilities, and the world at large: Your core is made up of your 6 pack, and a couple of ancillary muscles. We’re here to bust that myth — and not just tell you it’s wrong, but answer your question, why is core strength important?
Whether you’re a chiropractor, physical therapist, athlete, senior, or just someone who’s really interested in staying in great shape, we’ve got some news for you: Your core is so much more than your ab pack.
Including every central muscle between your chin and your pelvis, your core is the reason your body can do the most amazing thing: Defy gravity and move. Yes, of course, it’s also the reason you look so rad in a bathing suit, but more importantly, it’s the key to every movement you make. And the secret to optimizing it — to be stronger, faster, better — comes down to a couple of things you probably don’t know about it.
Why is core strength important? Key takeaways:
- Your core is your support system. It’s a necessary part of helping you move through gravity and for keeping you upright. So if you’re interested in moving at all, your core is REALLY important for making sure that happens. It helps you tackle back pain, problems with balance, and so much more.
- It keeps essential parts of your body safe. Your core was not designed to get people to comment on your Instagram about how awesome your abs are; it was designed to keep your stomach, your liver, your heart, and more, safe from attack. Think of it like armor — it’s your internal defense mechanism.
- It’s the primary building block for all the other strength exercises you want to do. Without a strong core, you’ll never have impeccable glutes. No overhead press without a good core. No rowing machine sprints without a strong core. You may not know you’re using it, but your core is helping you stay upright as you tackle your other must-do gym items. So keep that in mind next time you want to skip core — it’s not just about your abs!
So next time you’re looking to solve a backache, increase your marathon speed, or just improve your overall mobility, keep these key facts in mind.
1. You’re never going to have a perfect six-pack without perfect posture.
Ok so we know we just busted the BIG myth about your core, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t interested in learning a little more about how to get your summer-ready six-pack.
So let’s start with your posture: Can you have great abs, or even decent mobility, without it? The answer is a resounding no because when it comes to abs, stability is just as important as mobility. To that end, every time you slouch, you’re compressing the muscles you need to move through space with efficiency, and at the same time, you aren’t elongating your ab pack. Together, it spells disaster for the abs of your dreams.
What do you need to do? You need to work on your posture first, then your abs will have a chance to appear. By targeting your deep core muscles, the ones surrounding your spine, you’ll build the support you need for your spine to stand straight — and to give your abs the room they need to form properly.
2. Sitting is killing your back — seriously.
If you’re working a 9-to-5 and sitting most of the day, your core is taking a beating. It’s probably manifesting as poor posture, but it could also be showing up as lower back pain that just won’t quit.
So why is this happening? As you sit, your psoas muscles (the muscles in your hips that keep your legs and spine connected) is tightening, pulling your center and your thigh closer together. If you sit a long time, this can cause your shoulders to curve, giving you the “desk hunch.” More than just keeping you from moving as efficiently as you can, it really has a big impact on how much lower back pain you regularly experience. With consistent, deep core conditioning, you can stretch the necessary muscles and not only strengthen your core, but decrease your back pain.
3. There’s really no such thing as “the perfect crunch.”
When it comes to technique, yes you could argue that there is “a perfect crunch” if all the considerations are met. But it’s nearly impossible — even for the most perfect of bodies — and it’s never going to be the “one stop shop” move for the most effective core training for strength or rehabilitation.
Instead, what you should be considering instead of “the perfect crunch” is this: What are you trying to accomplish with the perfect crunch, and is there a more effective way than the crunch to reach that end goal? If you want more strength, power, and mobility, then the answer is yes, there are other options than crunches. Which leads us to the next question…
4. Unbalanced core exercises are just as bad for you as doing no core exercises at all.
If you’re going to the gym and only doing a thousand crunches on every machine available without working out anything else, you’re going to be sadly disappointed with the results. Why? Because a strong core isn’t just about the muscles that the crunch targets. As mentioned before, a lot of core strength comes from the deeper muscles that aren’t activated in the traditional crunch, like the deep core that surrounds your spine. Without focusing on the whole core as a unit, once can apply too much focus on one set which then can cause an imbalance. And who wants that?
We recommend trying one specific machine in particular: The AllCore360°. This machine was invented by a chiropractor to do something no other machine on the market can — work out the 50+ muscles in the core against the resistance of gravity. Creating resistance by rotating “riders” 360°, users get to work out the well-known core muscles as well as train the pelvic floor, improve scapular stability, and more. Check it out in action here.
5. Your core is integral to every movement you make, and attention to detail is a must.
Your core muscles are just like every muscle in your body — and you should treat them as such. Don’t beat your body to death with too much attention to this one section — it’s not healthy, and it’s not safe. When using an Allcore360º, we recommend that riders target their core three times a week, for ten minutes each, and if you keep up this schedule, you’ll see measurable results.
With all of that in mind, you’re thinking it’s time to get serious with your workout, so let’s hit the gym. But what should you use?
How to improve your core strength:
- Rowing Machine Knee Tuck: Thought the rowing machine was best for your arms only? Think again. By planting your feet on the seat, facing away from the console, and holding a strong plank, you can use your core to bring your knees to your chest and activate the necessary muscles. Check out Melissa Whiting’s Instagram (she’s NASM certified trainer and self-proclaimed fitness addict) for tips on getting it right.
- Captain’s Chair Leg Raise: Easy to operate and ideal for your core and hip flexors, the hanging leg raise is a simple way to get in a good workout for your rectus abdominis and external obliques. Fitness guru Tiffany Michelle recommends one count up and four counts down — check out her video here.
- AllCore360°: We already let you in on some of the details about the AllCore360°, so now we’re here to say that it’s a one-stop-shop for total core fitness. With a 10-minute session, three times a week, you can start seeing results in less than a month — guaranteed. Check out this video on how Marcus Williams challenged all aspects of his core in his first 10-minute ride, and then find a location to try it.
- Incline Bench Sit Up: This guy goes straight for your rectus abdominus, and stays there to work its magic. You’ve probably seen this guy at work, so we won’t bore you with the details; just hook your feet, lay back, and then exhale as you lift your chest upward. Don’t go more than 30° to 45° off the back until you’re comfortable — you don’t want to strain your neck muscles trying to get good abs.
So remember, when it comes to your core, it’s all about the bigger picture. If you want to improve your core strength, it’s essential to understand how the core works in your body.
Interested to learn more about how to dominate your core? Check out how the AllCore360° is transforming fitness and rehabilitation across the board here. Ready to try it out for yourself or for your business? Check out where we’re located here, and let us know when you’re ready for a free demo — 100% on us.