The Benefits of Working Out Your Core—Aside from Getting Abs

We asked an expert about the importance of exercising our core.

core workoutPhoto Credit: Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Why does every workout reference a strong core? If you’re not looking for a six-pack, is this necessary?

We reached out to certified athletic therapist Peter Levidis of Sport Specialists to tell us exactly how important core exercises are. Here’s what he sad to say:

There’s a reason why your core gets talked about so often in fitness: It’s the foundation of any movement you do, in or out of the gym. Think of your core as the trunk of your body, with all your limbs attached to it. This group of muscles wraps around to include your lower back, pelvis and hips and, yes, includes the coveted six-pack area. So, it’s important, but for much more than it looks. (Here are the best ab exercises for a stronger core, without a sit-up in sight.)

A strong core ensures that you have functioning postural and trunk-stabilizing muscles (translation: it’s what holds you upright). Without properly functioning core muscles, your body would be as noodle-like as a piece of cooked spaghetti. And you use your core more than you think: Even during a simple task like putting your groceries in the trunk of your car, your core muscles are working to stabilize you and get the job done. The heavier the groceries, the more your core needs to be engaged because of the lack of leverage.

At the gym, if you’re performing squats, lunges or push-ups, even though you don’t get the same burn you would get on your 20th sit-up, your core muscles are working hard to brace your spine and maintain that particular posture.  If external demands override what your stabilizing muscles are capable of, you can pull a muscle in your arms, legs or lower back.

If you’re complaining about extra fat in your midsection, lower back pain or consistently bad posture, you probably have a weak core. While there are plenty of different ways to build strength in that area, adding a self-limiting element to your exercises is an easy way to engage more of your core in your current routine. What’s a self-limiting exercise? It’s essentially forcing a survival need when you’re doing a certain move, which, in turn, makes your body engage your core to maintain good form. For example, if you’re performing a plank on your forearms and toes and keeping your spine properly aligned, you might say “Hey, I’m rocking this plank!” Now, without shifting in the slightest bit, lift one leg. This will put more demand on your body, which means that you have no choice but to engage the right muscles to avoid losing control and falling.

Focus on engaging your core for a stronger, more functional body that’s less likely to encounter injury. And, hey, the bragging rights of a six-pack aren’t too shabby either.

Next, see how many squats it takes to see results.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada