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What is the Core, Anyway? And Why Do I Need It?

The "core". You've probably seen this buzz-word mentioned several times throughout various health and wellness magazines issued over the past 10 years. But what is the core, really?  

Back when I first started seeing articles of this kind, like most others, I was fairly convinced that “the core” pretty much had to do with the abdomen. Duh. Everyone needs nice abs. So what’s the big deal? Well, your core is comprised of several, interdependent muscle groups, over 15, actually--spanning your lower back, butt, hips, and thighs. The condition of these muscles is crucial to supporting and directing your body’s alignment through even the smallest of everyday movements. 

You use your core:

When standing up.

When you climb stairs.

When you stoop to grab a box.  

When you pick up your kids.

When you're seated at a computer.

The stronger your core and the more aware you are of its role in guiding your body's kinetic chain, the more stable and less injury-prone you’ll be. Therefore, it's important to get in the habit of activating/strengthening and lengthening certain muscles before beginning any fitness regimen.  As a result of the fact that so many of us tend to sit (particularly at computers) and remain inactive for a good part of the day, many of us tend to develop similar patterns of muscular weakness and tightness.  Such weakness (especially in core muscles) can lead to postural misalignment, faulty movement patterns and various injuries, over time. 

As a result of the amount of time most of us spend sitting at a desk, the weakest core muscles tend to be:

  • - Glutes
  • - Lower rectus abdominis (the lower part of your "6-pack")
  • - Transverse abdominis
  • - Quadriceps

The weak neighboring muscles include: 

  • - Mid/Lower trapezius and rhomboids
  • - Rotator cuff muscles
  • - Rear deltoids
  • - Latissimus dorsi

Conversely, our overly-tight muscles tend to be: 

  • -Pecs (chest)
  • -Upper rectus abdominis (the upper "6-pack")
  • -Hip Flexors
  • -Upper trapezius
  • -The muscles of the lower back
  • -Hamstrings

Although this example doesn’t apply for everyone, it’s true for many. By devoting time to strengthening weak muscles and stretching others that are tight, you’ll give your body a much-needed advantage before beginning any workout routine.