After identifying our core muscles last week, let’s look at what they do for us and what is the point of working them in the first place.
As explained last week, the core muscles are the central part of our body and as such support most our actions, but sometimes we underestimate how much of an impact our core has on us.
What does your core do for you?
Literally everything we do recruits our core muscles at some point or other:
- Day to day stuff: when you bend over to pick up something of the floor, stand up from a chair, get up in the morning, make a cup of tea, you use your core muscles. We don’t put much thoughts in these activities, but they all rely on our core
- Sports: most people are aware that their core has an impact on their sporting activities, and they are correct. If you hit a tennis ball, go for a swim, play football, run, cycle, you use your core muscles. A strong core will enable any movements from your arms and legs to be more efficient.
- At home and at work: any housework, be it cleaning the windows, running the hoover around or putting a load of washing on recruits your core muscles at some point, especially if you are stretching up to dust a high shelf or carry a load of washing across the house.
The same can be said of work done in the garden: cutting the grass, pulling out weeds and planting new shoots, all require core muscle work
as you bend, lift, carry or push. Equally, in a work environment, carrying any load, twisting on your chair, reaching for the phone, are all activities that require your core muscles.
- Keep your back healthy: the core muscles situated in the lower back work in conjunction with the core muscles situated in the abdomen. The good news is that whenever you work your abdominal core muscles, you also strengthen your lower back.
- Reduce risk of falling: have you ever experienced the following: you trip over
something and are about to fall, and as you try to stop yourself from falling, do you notice that your core muscles tense? Whenever we are off balance, we contract our core muscles instinctively to try and regain that balance and stop us from falling. A strong core will help you walk or run on uneven grounds and will also reduce the risk of falling.
- Good posture: this one is an interesting one. The relation between good posture and core muscles is a little bit like the whole chicken and egg conundrum. What came first? They are both very much linked: good posture will contribute to healthy and strong core muscles and a good core will help you keep a good posture with ease. It is also important to note that a good posture will have a direct impact on the health of the spine.
- Good mood factor: a 2016 study has confirmed that the core muscles have an effect on stress. You may have noticed that when you feel stressed or anxious, you tend to curve in on yourself and your core muscles aren’t activated so much. By contrast, if you get yourself to pull your shoulders back and engage your tummy a little, how do you feel? You probably feel better, just by changing your posture. Our body, breath and mind are intrinsically linked: when you take the shoulders back and adopt a better posture, you breathe more easily as you have more space for your lungs. This deeper, easier breath will send calming signals to your mind, telling it that everything is ok, or at least, not as bad as first thought.
Worth working for?
Definitely worth working for then. But if you are not a fan of stomach crunches or Russian twists (and I definitely am not!), never fear. You don’t need to do any of these to work your core muscles. This type of exercises work the upper layer of abdominal muscles – the famous six-pack. Core muscles being the very lower layer of muscles require a whole different type of workout, which I personally find a lot gentler and a lot more accessible (I have never managed a decent stomach crunch in my whole life!).
So watch this space for a short video that I will publish next week with simple exercises that will help you strengthen your core muscles.