As an athlete, it is sometimes tempting to focus on a single body part connected to agility in your sport. Arms, shoulders, legs, glutes — they all get their day in the sun — but what about your core? It is vital to maintain a strong core, whether you are an athlete or not. Unconvinced? Keep reading!
What is my core?
Your core is literally the core, or center, of your body. It is a network of muscles located around the lower spine, pelvis, and hips. This is sometimes referred to as a “muscular corset” because it includes muscles that hold in your internal organs. The outer muscles that form the elusive “six-pack” are the rectus abdominis muscles, but there is also a set of important deep core muscles to think about: this is called the transverse abdominis.
Why should I strengthen my core?
- Your core provides balance and stability for your entire body. Balance is necessary for all sports, but it is also crucial for daily living, as it helps to prevent falls and injuries.
- A strong core can reduce or prevent lower back pain and injuries. Since the core muscles support the spine, it stands to reason that strengthening them will reduce strain on your joints and keep your spine aligned properly.
- A strong core automatically gives you a strong posture, which in turn helps balance your upper back, head, and neck areas so that you can avoid tensing up and feeling pain.
- A strong core helps with flexibility. This is important if you are playing volleyball or cheerleading, but it is also important if you need to reach up for a T-shirt on your top shelf or if you need to unhook the hose behind your dryer to clean it out! You need mobility and flexibility to do all sorts of things that involve bending, twisting, lifting, and reaching.
- A strong core helps with lung function. In fact, a 2015 study from the National Institutes of Health concluded that “Compared with traditional abdominal exercises, core stabilization exercises based on breathing and global stretching postures are more effective in improving pulmonary function and abdominal fitness.”
- Weak core muscles can lead to fatigue and decreased endurance levels. This is not something you want to deal with if you are training for a marathon or hoping to play both halves of a soccer game.
How do I strengthen my core?
There are several simple things that you can do to strengthen your core. For instance, simply holding in your belly or being mindful of your posture as you go through the day can help. You can also sit on an exercise ball instead of your office chair for a couple of 20-minute intervals a day.
The Mayo Clinic suggests exercises such as planks, side planks, bridges, abdominal presses, and abdominal crunches, although crunches are not recommended for those over the age of 65. Squats are also effective ways to strengthen core muscles.
Simply strengthening your core will not automatically give you a six-pack. You will still need diet and aerobic exercise (cardiovascular conditioning) to showcase that. However, a strong core is vital for any other type of exercise. You will look better when you can hold yourself upright in a balanced posture. You will feel better too.
The physical therapists at True Sports can work with you on core strengthening exercises as you prepare for surgery or recover from an injury. We specialize in sports rehabilitation and understand the unique needs of every athlete looking for the best care.
Make an appointment at one of our seven convenient locations in the Greater Baltimore area: Call (410) 514-3297