Working your core for more than just a six-pack

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If there’s a trendy phrase that has made its way through gym culture of late, it has to be talk of “working your core.” It also has to be the leader for misunderstood phrases.

Where’s “my core?”

To some, “working your core” translates to countless hours of crunches and sit-ups until you’ve got six-pack abs that would make even the most committed bodybuilder jealous. According to experts, though, your core is much more than just your abdominal muscles, and it’s more important than a cosmetic ideal to be achieved.

In fact, the core muscle group includes all of your torso muscles, from abs to obliques and lats. Here’s a quick overview of what your core muscles do:

  • Keep your body stable and balanced
  • Affect your balance and posture
  • Protect against injury
  • Support knees and other joints
  • Ward off persistent back pain

Why should I care about these muscles?

Acting in unison, stabilizer muscles (those attached to the spine that support movement) work with other “mover” muscles that overtly do the work in our daily lives. When both groups are strong, you are naturally stronger, suffer from less pain and are generally healthier.

How to keep your core strong

So, before you start scheduling yourself for three hours of sit-ups a day, realize there are smarter ways to build your core. According to experts, the best way to build a strong core is to take a balanced approach.

  1. Work on stability
    Basic exercises, like planks, force you to stabilize all of your core muscles. They are tough to do at the outset, but get much easier as you go.
  1. Introduce dynamic stability exercises
    These movements involve training the core muscles groups to stabilize your lower back while other muscles are in motion. Exercises, like “the dead bug,” help protect your lower back muscles while building your abs and groin muscles.
  1. Use hypertrophic exercises
    These more strenuous moves, with exercises like the McGill curl, strengthen the links between all your core muscles.

Again, balanced workouts are key. You can find plenty of resources on various core exercises online, and it’s easy to find the ones that work best for you.

Just remember: it’s about more than just becoming the next Zac Efron. It’s about your overall health!