The Core. Core Strength. We’ve all heard these words and phrases time and time again. It has been a classic buzzword for a few years now. But do you know really know what it is?

Despite the millions of words written about it, the marketing campaigns behind the latest, ‘greatest’ gadgets and products, I am not so sure ‘The Core’ is widely understood…

I suspect that when asked to define and point to their core, the vast majority of folks with talk about their abs and point at their tummy area. Whilst this is not wrong, it really is only part of the story.

The Core is so much more than Abs!

How much more? Well, put it this way, if you subtract your two legs, two arms, head and neck, what you are basically left with is your core. It’s pretty much everything that isn’t a limb!

Put another way, the core is the collection of muscles that surrounds your internal organs. And when explained like that, the importance of the core is suddenly emphasized. Not only is its ‘geography’ explained, but its purpose and tremendous importance.

Three layers of the core

And now we come to the make-up of the core. There is a deep layer, inner layer and outer layer.
The outer layer is ‘the hero’, the one everybody thinks of when they consider their perfect abs – the six pack. These are great aesthetics, but it in truth it is those layers you cannot see that are even more critical.

Let’s take a look at each layer…


Sexy female's body part on dark background

Deep Layer

These really are on the inside of everything! They are tiny muscles connecting individual vertebrae and their job is to control the movements of the spine. When it comes to proper spine alignment, these muscles are critical.

They are particularly employed in matters of stability. So when you are working on your Swiss ball, bosu or any such product, when your body is fighting to correct itself and give you a decent and firm platform – these deep layer muscles are working hard for you.

Inner Layer

Now we are getting to what people perhaps better understand as the core. It’s definitely the bit that trainers become more animated about. Why?

This is the cylindrical bit which, from top to bottom, fundamentally contain your internal organs, with the diaphragm sitting at the top and the pelvic floor at the bottom.

The muscles – traverse abdominus and multifidus effectively squeeze and compress the contents. All of this helps to support the spine and alleviate pressure on the discs. Being able to brace your core is key to this entire process

Learning how to brace is important and easy! 

– Pull up your pelvic floor and if trying to stop wetting yourself!

– Tense your stomach as you would if someone is going to punch you

– Inhale

The effect should be as if you are strapping on a corset.

Outer Layer

These are the muscles we think about when envisaging the perfect midsection – rectus abdominus or better known as ‘abs’ to most. These muscles cover the front, the waist (obliques) and back (erector spinae) and they are all about bending, rotating and extending movements.

When it comes to training these, it must be done in an even, balanced way. Too much favouring one and ignoring another will cause imbalance issues, poor posture and possible bad back.

To create this balanced approach and generate core strength, ensure that you perform these essential movements and their example typical exercises:

Flexion – crunches

Extension – back extensions

Rotation – cable wood chops

Bracing – planks

Lateral Flexion – side bends

Next time…

In my next article I will address some misinformation about core training as well as providing some guidance to help you create core strength and great abs. Join me then!

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