Core training has become such a hot topic in the exercise field recently and rightly so. Ask just about anyone what they understand about the body's core and you're likely to get an answer as it being the abdominal muscles. While this is not an entirely false statement, the word "core" signifies a collection of muscles that act to stabilize the body and allow functional and powerful movements. This article aims to give a very brief explanation of the core and its significance in human movement.
The "core" is a complex of 29 muscles that act to stabilize the connection between the hip, pelvis and low back (also called the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex). While the core may include the "six pack" abdominals (rectus abdominis and obliques) to a degree, the most important muscles of the core are the transversus abdominis, deep spinal muscles and the glutes (butt muscles). The transversus is the deepest of all the abdominals, and when it contracts, acts like a natural corset, bracing and stabilizing the area of the low back.
The core is of primary importance since it stabilizes the region of the body where the center of gravity is located and where all human movement begins. It acts as the primary anchor for almost every muscle in the body to "pull off" and as the bridge between the upper and lower body. The powerful leg muscles attach to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) directly via the hip, while the muscles of the arms and shoulders attach indirectly via the spine and trunk. The muscles of the core stabilize the spine, so essentially the strength and power of the arms and legs are limited by the strength of the core. In other words, the strength of the extremities (arms and legs) can never exceed the strength of the core as it defies the natural rules of science. For example, an individual can have the upper body of Arnie Schwarzenegger but if his lower core acting as the ultimate anchor is weak and fails to stabilize the spine, functionally speaking he is weak too. An individual like this simply cannot transfer the strength of the upper body muscles into a powerful movement - like trying to fire a cannon from a canoe
Athletes and exercisers in general spend far too much time training the arms and legs or racking up hundreds of miles of running distance to condition their bodies but essentially ignore the strength and integrity of the core stabilizing muscles. This practice leads to postural deviations, muscle imbalances and wasteful/inefficient movement that inevitably lead to injury. As Bruce Lee knew, the secret to a truly conditioned body begins by training from the "inside out" not from the "outside in".
David Petersen is an Exercise Physiologist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the owner and founder of B.O.S.S. Fitness Inc. based in Oldsmar, Florida. More articles and information can be found at http://www.bossfitness.com
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