Core strength is a term that is often restricted to crunches and six pack abs. However, the core muscles consist of the abdominal muscles, obliques and lower back, with the last two muscle groups often neglected when exercising.
What is core strength?
The core muscles are among the most vital muscles of the body. Though they are not as visually appealing as huge biceps, smaller waistlines or toned muscles, they help in maintaining total body strength and stability. Plank is one of the many core exercises that come to mind when thinking of strength and stability. Many challenges on social media and the recent world record of holding an 8+ hours plank have massively motivated people to do their best.
However, many confuse core with the abdominal muscles. Contrary to belief that one needs more than 2 to 3 exercises to strengthen the abs, it is important to focus on exercises where the core muscles are working, even if they are not the primary focus. This can include exercises like the deadlift and barbell rows. The abs are one whole set of muscles, and are not segregated into lower abs and upper abs. When targeting the core, it is necessary to hit all muscle groups present with exercises such as leg raises, Russian twists, the plank and hyperextensions.
Core stability is an often untrained aspect of fitness. Stability is important in maintaining balance and even for performing advanced exercises such as the human flag. Due to desk jobs and sedentary lifestyle among many people, improper posture has been on the rise. This can cause problems for many in later life, and possibly injury. Thus, consciously working on core stability and strength is important, as they help the body transfer the force from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa, and help prevent any excessive load on the spine. Core muscles may not do much for vanity but are among the most vital muscles in the whole body.
Developing the core
Developing the core is easy, as any form of movement involve the muscles. Yoga, callisthenics and weight training heavily involve the core as a lot of the exercises in them involve stabilizing bodyweight and free weights. Cardiovascular exercise such as running, cycling, and swimming also help in developing the core, but only to a certain extent. The core, just like any other muscle group needs progression towards harder exercises to become stronger.