What is the Core? And Why is it SO Important?

Everyone who exercises or who has back pain has been told “You need to strengthen your core!”

I took gross anatomy and have spent the years with the focus of my life working on the human body and know for a fact that there is no core muscle or core group in the body, but we as therapists talk about the core all the time…

…But how many people even have clue what we mean by the core?

People tell me that they’ve been strengthening their core all the time, but when I ask what they’ve been doing they say “Like a hundred Crunches”. So the only way that I can interpret that is that most people think the CORE is just another name for the Abdominal group of muscles (which are actually a group of 4 main muscles that can only all be worked in 3-dimensions, not just by doing crunches).

What is the Core REALLY?

The core is defined as the muscles of your deep corset: Transverse Abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle that actually traverses around your midsection), the Multifidi (which are deep back muscles lying close to the spine), the diaphragm (the muscle that assists in breathing), and the pelvic floor (the muscles in the bottom of your pelvis that control urine flow).

So by that definition, the CORE is all the muscles that surround your visceral organs (the internal organs in the abdomen) and create a can shape around those organs.

But in fitness and physical therapy, the core is so much more than that. The core includes all the muscles, fascia, and ligaments in everything except your arms and legs that allow your arms and legs to work independently from your “body”. So this includes the deep muscles in your hip that help control your pelvis, your lats, and yes all your abdominals.

Why is the core so Important?

Your core muscles are there to allow your arm and leg muscles to have something stable to pull against. Picture trying to pull your dresser across the room with your feet on a throw rug that just keeps sliding out from under your feet. That is what your arms and legs are going through every time they move that your core does not hold your body still.

Therefore, with a “weak” core you move your arms out in front of you and your whole trunk has to lean back to compensate for the change in weight. So, your back has to move to much just to move your arm.

But there is so much more to it than that.