Get to Know Your Core!

There is a ton of information everywhere that is devoted to the core, much of it is contradictory and confusing. We want to summarize and simplify what we see as essential info so you can actually put this information to use. Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, even including the upper portion of your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body.  Over the next few newsletters we will spend time dissecting the core, describing the muscles involved in core activity and how they work together as a system.

These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another or initiate movement itself. The core is heavily involved in walking for example.  

Good looking abs does not necessarily translate into a functional core.  Only an assessment of core function can tell us that.


We want you to become a functional and strong human, as opposed to just some chiseled abs, but we can call those the icing on the cake. So, we must first identify the core and what it looks like. In this diagram, we see the external musculature of the human body.

Our core has three-dimensional depth and functional movement in all three planes of motion. Many of the muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature people typically train. The deeper muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm internal and external obliques, pelvic floor, and many other deeper muscles. They may be deep but their importance is high!

What the Core Does

Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. Yet consistently people focus on training their core as a prime mover and in isolation. This would be doing crunches or back extensions versus functional movements like deadlifts, overhead squats, and pushups, among many other functional closed chain exercises. By training that way, not only are you missing out on a major function of the core, but also better strength gains, more efficient movement, and longevity of health.

We must look at core strength as the ability to produce force with respect to core stability, which is the ability to control the force we produce. According to Andy Waldhem in his 

Assessment of Core Stability: Developing Practical Models

, there are “five different components of core stability: strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function”.1 Without motor control and function, the other three components are useless, like a fish flopping out of water no matter how strong you are or how much endurance you have.

It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and then dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability. This can include running, performing Olympic lifts, or picking up the gallon of milk far back in the fridge while keeping your back safe. 

Research has shown that athletes with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury.

 This is proven perhaps most effectively by the Functional Movement Screen. There is a multitude of various tests that measure core stability, but we consistently use and recommend the FMS because of the research, results, and effectiveness of the corrective strategies we have seen with the people we work with everyday!

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