Whether the topic is education or exercise, core content and core activities tie everything together. In education, core content includes the specific information upon which the course is based. Students are expected, at the very least, to demonstrate mastery of the core content. In exercise, core activities establish the musculoskeletal foundation that supports and enables all other components of physical fitness, including strength training, cardiorespiratory exercise, and sports readiness.
The term “core” in core exercise is relatively new, but athletes and other persons participating in physical fitness activities have been doing core routines since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, more than 2500 years ago. For example, wrestling, the ancient Greeks’ most popular organized sport, is grounded in core stability and strength. More recently, in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, high school “phys ed” classes emphasized squat thrusts, jumping jacks, pushups, pullups, and abdominal strengthening. Thus, before the advent of today’s ubiquitous fitness centers and the plethora of personal trainers teaching members how to do an abdominal curl-up on a physioball, core exercises were part of the regular curriculum of all public school students in ninth grade and beyond. Core exercise is not new, but the need for core training became lost in the 1980s fitness boom that focused on “aerobics” and “cardio”, and secondarily on strength training.
The importance of core training and the need to learn core exercises has undergone a resurgence recently, as the quantity and frequency of exercise-related injuries has skyrocketed. People eager to make healthier lifestyle choices, including those anxious to lose weight, have thronged their local fitness centers. But although it seems simple and straightforward to pedal an exercise bike, lope up and down on an elliptical stair-stepper, lift a dumbbell, or press down or pull up on a machine-assisted exercise bar, if the exerciser’s core muscles are deconditioned, injury is the likely result, sooner or later.1,2
The most important core muscle is the transversus abdominis, a sheet of horizontally oriented muscle fibers that lies beneath the more familiar abdominal muscles, that is, the rectus abdominis, internal obliques, and external obliques.3 Core muscles include the mutifidi and rotatores, small, deep spinal muscles that connect and help move pairs and groups of spinal vertebras, and other back muscles such as the erector spinae and longissimus thoracis. Everyone needs to train the core as a primary component of an ongoing program of regular, vigorous exercise. There are innumerable highly effective core exercises and most do not require any equipment. A physioball provides the opportunity for variety and increasing levels of difficulty. Such accessories are low cost and usually available in local fitness centers. As with all forms of exercise, start slow and build strength and endurance gradually. It doesn’t take long to notice the benefits of a regular core routine, including enhanced spinal flexibility, improved balance, and a flatter abdominal region.
1Chang WD, et al: Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain. J Phys Ther Sci 27(3):619-22, 2015
2Southwell DJ1, et al: The acute effects of targeted abdominal muscle activation training on spine stability and neuromuscular control. J Neuroeng Rehabil 13(1):19, 2016
3Leonard JH, et al: Changes in Transversus Abdominis Muscle Thickness after Lumbo-Pelvic Core Stabilization Training among Chronic Low Back Pain Individuals. Clin Ther 2015;166(5):e312-6. doi: 10.7417/T.2015.1884
Article originally posted on Marilyn Carmona’s website.