Healthypedia
Brenton Barker

Strength Of Your Core: Why It’s Essential And How To Test It

Core strength is essential to your health and well-being. But do you include it in your training program? If not, here's why you should.

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Open any magazine or fitness app, and you’ll read about the many benefits of having a strong core, but does the average person need a strong core? Isn’t it only for athletes?

Yes, developing a strong core is important for athletes, but it’s even more important for the average person. Whether sitting at a desk all day or being a stay-at-home parent, having strong muscles will benefit you in several ways.

This article will examine why core strength is critical to your health, and which muscle makes up the core.

Let’s get started.

What is core strength, and what are the core muscles?

Your core comprises muscles that help balance and stabilise your midsection, specifically your spine and pelvis. Unlike other types of strength, core strength focuses on balance and stability rather than raw power.

The core also includes pelvic floor musculature, which plays a vital role in balance and can benefit the elderly by mitigating their chance of dangerous falls.

In particular, having good core strength improves your posture and helps you perform everyday activities like walking and playing with your kids. Furthermore, it can help athletes improve their technique, reducing their chance of injury.

Seven muscles that make up the core

When most people think of the core, they envisage beach body models with six-pack abs, but it is actually made up of 7 muscle groups.

Abdominals – Help to stabilise the spine and posture

Obliques – Critical for spine safety and rotation

Back – Poor back strength can result in lower back pain and poor mobility

Pelvic Floor Musculature – Vital for balance, stabilisation, and sexual health

Spine – Critical for correct posture and functional movement

Glutes – Vital for the rotation of the hip

Diaphragm – Enables us to breathe and is critical for digestive function.

Why is core strength so important to your health?

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In essence, it acts as the link between your lower and upper body and is absolutely critical when performing everything from swinging a golf club and riding a bike to walking and playing with your kids.

Additionally, a weak core can cause problems in other areas of your body and drastically reduce your efficiency when performing daily activities. On the other hand, superior core strength reduces the chance of falling and improves your balance and stability.

1It improves posture

A weak core can lead to slouching or slumping of the shoulders and spine, leading to poor posture and the chance of serious long-term damage. Alternatively, strong muscles straighten your posture, reduce the wear and tear on your spine, and allow you to breathe freely.

For example, yoga has long been known for its powerful health benefits, particularly when it comes to improving posture and strength. Yoga emphasises body balance, strengthening the stabiliser muscle deep inside your core.

2Improves your ability to perform work tasks

Did you know that sitting in a chair or at a desk daily places great demands on your core? Most people associate the core with bending and rotational tasks; however, more often than not, the mundane tasks we think little of, like typing, phone calls, and research, cause the most harm.

When sitting at your desk, engage your muscles, keep your back straight, and your shoulders and chest relaxed. Ensure you have an ergonomically designed chair and, most importantly, that you are performing 10 – 15 minutes of training daily.

3It is critical for back health

For those with chronic pain, the idea of exercising might seem ludicrous, if not outright dangerous. However, studies suggest that performing core movements such as the plank is one of the best ways to alleviate back and hip pain.

One study showed that a whopping 50% of Americans suffer from chronic hip and lower back pain. While many factors can cause low back pain, researchers are confident that the leading cause is poor core strength.

This poor strength leads to incorrect technique, especially when performing daily tasks like carrying groceries or picking something heavy off the ground.

4Improves athletic performance

Most sports emphasise performing movements with correct technique, and a strong core is vital to achieving this. For example, sports such as tennis, golf, and cycling require athletes to have incredible strength and flexibility in their core. According to the American Heart Association, children, teens, adults, and seniors should look to perform at least some form of strength training twice weekly.

Your core muscles play an essential role as they help balance and stabilise your upper and lower body while performing complex movements such as hitting a tennis ball or kicking a soccer ball. In short, a string core lays the foundation for peak athletic performance.

5It is critical for daily activities

A strong core is essential for performing everyday activities such as putting your socks on and even getting out of bed. Many people fall victim to lower back pain due to a weak core.

For instance, when picking up heavy goods, most people bend at their hips instead of keeping their backs straight and bending their knees. A strong core allows you to perform these everyday tasks with good technique, thus reducing your chance of injury.

How to test your core strength

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This test aims to evaluate your current level of strength in a simple yet effective way. The test requires no equipment. However, a yoga mat or a soft towel will make the test slightly more comfortable.

To start the test, place yourself in the classical plank position, meaning your body is parallel to the floor, with your elbows and toes holding your body weight. Do not let your back bend; it must be straight to keep the tension on your core.

Step 1. With a stopwatch or timer in front of you (use your phone), place both forearms on the floor and hold the plank for 60 seconds.

Step 2. Now, hold the plank with only your left forearm for 15 seconds.

Step 3. Next, hold the plank for 15 seconds using your right forearm only.

Step 4. Next, keep both forearms on the ground, but raise your left leg and hold the plank for 15 seconds.

Step 5. Repeat step 4, but alternate with your right leg and hold the plank for 15 seconds.

Step 6. Finally, keep both legs and forearms on the floor and hold for 60 seconds.

Results and what they mean

Excellent result

If you can complete the test with good form, meaning you can keep your back straight, you have exceptional strength.

Moderate result

If you can complete or partially complete the test with good to moderate form, you have an average level of strength.

Poor result

If you cannot complete step 1 by holding the plank for 60 seconds, you have poor core strength. In this case, seek the advice of a qualified personal trainer who can help design a plan to improve your strength.

Curious facts

  • Core strength is critical when performing compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bent-over rows.

  • A strong core helps reduce the chance of injury when lifting heavy weights.

Let’s sum it up

As you can see, developing a strong midsection is not just for professional athletes. A strong core benefits everyday activities like walking and cleaning and can help dramatically reduce lower back pain.

Focusing on ripped six-pack abs is not the best way to build a strong core; to do that, ensure you train all seven muscle groups that make up the core.

Finally, don’t forget to include regular daily exercise and maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!

This short and very informative video by NAT Global Campus YouTube Channel explains why having a strong core is so essential. Watch it for a better understanding of the connections between your core muscles and your spine.


Healthypedia FAQ

Most people think of the abs as making up the core; however, in actual fact, your core is compromised of 7 different muscle groups, including the abs, obliques, pelvis, diaphragm, back, spine, and glutes.

Yoga is one of the best ways to improve your overall physical and mental well-being while simultaneously strengthening your core. Because yoga is a bodyweight activity, it forces you to balance, resulting in stronger stabilizing muscles found deep in the midsection.

There's an adage, "you have to start somewhere," and this rings true concerning core training. Regardless of your fitness level, anyone can start with as little as 10-15 minutes a day, performing basic bodyweight movements. Great exercises for beginners are sit-ups, planks, seated leg lifts, and air cycling.

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