The Misunderstood Core

The Misunderstood Core

How many times have you heard a fitness or yoga instructor point to his or her abdominals and say “core”? As in “strengthen your core”, “activate your core”, or “this works your core”. To many clients that we see, “core” is synonymous with “abs”, which is not entirely accurate. The core, it seems, is grossly misunderstood.

What is the “core”?

The core is a group of muscles that includes, but is not limited to, the abdominals. The muscles of the core involve back, side and front muscles of the body, extending from the sternum all the way down through the gluten and hamstrings. The job of the core is to stabilize and support the spine. My guess is that the core was aptly named because it is at the core of every movement our body makes, and without it most physical movement would be challenging if not impossible.
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What types of exercises strengthen the core?

Having a strong core is imperative to a healthy fitness routine. Kettle bell swings require a great deal of core strength to stabilize the movement and support the spine effectively. When throwing a punch from fight stance, the core is working to prevent you from overtwisting or turning, and helps drive and power the strike. In yoga, the core muscles are engaged and working during every asana to assist with balance and stability, and to help keep other parts of the body stable as well.

Just as the core is misunderstood, so are core exercises. Isolation exercises targeting the abdominals such as crunches are good, but they are just that: isolated. Doing isolated movements only can actually lead to impaired performance outside of a gym. In order to improve performance our bodies must be viewed as more holistic, both in mind-body connection and in terms of muscular strength. Maximum performance comes from muscles learning to work together.

We recommend whole body, multi-joint exercises, done at a relatively high intensity, for maximum health benefit and core strength-building. These can be done with or without weights, and can be done anywhere, no gym needed! Some fundamental exercises to try are:

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Burpees
  • Thrusters
  • Sumo Deadlift Highpull
  • Kettle Bell Swings
  • Planks/Side Planks

Here Japheth demonstrates three fundamental exercises that help strengthen and engage the core. You can try these on your own at home:

Adding weighted movements can also help work the core muscles tremendously. Here is Japheth demonstrating a Sumo Deadlift High pull:

Working with a certified personal trainer can be a great way to get started on building and maintaining core strength, and learning more about how your core works. Contact us at Water and Rock Studio if you’d like to schedule a free virtual or in-studio consult!


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