What do you think about when I say the following: “Core Strength”? It’s natural to think of your core as just your abdominal muscles – surfer ‘6 packs’ and ‘washboard abs’. It’s natural to want that, too! But, what if I told you that core strength is something entirely different? What if it isn’t about having the perfect beach body or wearing a bikini like a model? What if core strength is about being strong… not so that you can pick up boulders, but so that you can stay mobile for longer? That’s exactly what this post is all about: we’re giving you the low down on what core strength is, why it’s important, and how you can achieve it.
The truth is, core strength involves more than just your abdominals. In actual fact, it’s the ability of all the muscles in your mid-body to remain supple, strong, and flexible under stress and pressure. Yes, your abdominal muscles are involved, here, but so are your pelvic floor muscles, gluteals (buttocks), and diaphragm. Overall, your trunk houses a multitude of muscles, each of which plays a major role in feeding into ‘core strength’.
The medical profession mentions core strength fairly often, and if you’ve been struggling with back problems, in particular, my hope is that you’ve at least heard of it by now! Core strength – the strength and endurance of your trunk muscles – plays a vital part in upper back, lower back, and even leg and shoulder health. Without core strength, these major nerve centers lose structure, stability, and ultimately, mobility.
When it comes to core strength, the important thing to know is that you ought to keep it up – even if you feel in good health and aren’t currently experiencing pain, it’s in your best interest to maintain that pain-free lifestyle by strengthening this group of muscles. It may actually surprise you how much having core strength benefits you. Just take a look at some of the activities core strength can either hinder or improve: sitting, standing, sleeping, working out, running, walking, playing golf, cycling, swimming, picking up your grandkids, driving a car… the list is practically endless! The bottom line? Core strength matters!
The other side of the coin is of course, that a lack of core strength can result in injury and chronic pain. If you’ve read some of our other blogs, you’ll know by now that muscle function is interconnected – they aren’t independent of one another. Each muscle has an affect on the next – if one fails, the other will overcompensate and, in turn, will fail itself. A dramatic, sometimes life-changing effect can ensue. It’s no different when it comes to core muscles. If you fail to strengthen them, they’ll affect the other muscles in your body. In this instance, you’re likely to suffer from a variety of issues including, though by no means limited to, headaches, spasms, back pain, abdominal pain, pelvic pain, and even foot and knee pain! It’s a bit of an eye-opener, isn’t it?
Luckily, core strength is attainable – and no, I don’t mean you need to eat raw eggs and spend a daily six hours in the gym! Simple, consistent routines and exercises can go a long way in helping you gain – and maintain – your core strength… and thereby, health. Here are a couple of examples you can try right after reading this post!
1. Get onto your hands and knees on a yoga mat or floor.
2. Reach one leg out behind you and place the balls of the feet on the floor, then the other leg.
3. Make sure your legs remain straight.
4. Be sure your pelvis is lifted toward the ceiling without the buttocks lifting up into an inverted “V” – remain as ‘straight as a plank’ from your shoulders through to your heels.
5. Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
6. Remain in this position for 30 seconds at a time.
Bridge (or what I like to call my Elongation exercise)
1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Imagine you are reaching your knees to the end of the mat.
4. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, slowly lift up your pelvis until you form a straight line from your shoulder to your knees.
5. Hold this pose for 30 seconds at a time.
A good way of strengthening your core strength is by doing regular Pilates. The routines lend themselves well to overall strength as they vary in focus, yet they are particularly effective when it comes to core strength. Why not try a class for some inspiration and motivation?
Those suggestions aren’t that hard, are they? None of that body-builder stuff is needed! Fitness is essential in maintaining health, and keeping up your core strength is a massive part of that. If you’re stuck, though, and you’re not quite sure where to start with building up your core muscles, why not contact us at 301-493-9257? Not only will physical therapy help you build up your core strength, but it will give you the tools to maintain that strength on your own and teach you proper mechanics for activities to prevent injury! You’ll get a tailor-made exercise program. Whether you’re currently suffering from back pain or ankle pain and just want to regain a pain-free, healthy lifestyle, or even if you just want to get started on building up your core strength in order to avoid injury in the future, physical therapy can help.
Now is a great time to start building your core strength – no matter how old you are, what injury you may be suffering from, or how fit/unfit you think you are… core strength is for everyone! Click here to schedule a FREE 20 minute call to discuss your issues.
To Your Health,