Spotlight on Core Fitness

26 Sep

We talk about it all the time in our Pilates classes, but what does “core fitness” really mean?  What does it do?  How can we improve it?   We’ll answer those questions and more in this week’s Spotlight on Core Fitness!

First of all, the basics:  What is the core?   

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body.  The core is actually made up of three sheaths of muscles: The upper abs, the side muscles, which are called the obliques, and then this very deep layer of muscle. Those deep muscles are the ones that do all the good stuff, like support your spine and act as a natural corset—so when you work them not only do you get a flatter stomach but a tighter stomach.

core-muscles-small

Secondly:  What does the core actually do?

The role of the core is to stabilize the spine.  Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover.  This group of muscles is where much of the body’s strength comes from; you use it to kick a ball, lift a heavy box, and even stand up straight.

Third:  Why is that important?

Research has shown that individuals with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury.  Researchers continue to study the various ways core strength improves health and well-being.  A few of the proven benefits of having a strong center include:  alleviating back pain, improving posture, improving athletic performance, improving balance, and perhaps the most important of all, 

  • Safer Everyday Movement: Daily tasks—such as maintaining balance on an icy sidewalk, carrying groceries, hoisting children and walking up a steep flight of stairs—are easier and less likely to result in an injury when you core is strong. Not only do you have better control of your muscles, but you can more easily find your center if you’re caught off-balance. In addition, being able to rely on a strong core will make it less likely that you’ll overtax other muscles.

I noticed when I started doing Pilates, which includes a lot of core engagement, that it got easier to snowboard, surf and do complicated yoga poses.  It also has the added benefit of making you look thinner.  Those core muscles are connected to your legs, to the way you stand, squat, sit. It’s not just about the abdominal muscles, but also training your back, your glutes, and the entire area that connects to your spinal cord and helps your body support your spine, so that the burden of supporting your body weight isn’t just placed on your bones.

Lastly:  How do I work it?

If people want to really improve their core strength, introducing instability into workouts they’re already doing (for example:  standing on a bosu, using a fitness ball or a foam roller) and Pilates are both really great ways.  If you’re looking for one exercise that does get results in your core, definitely Pilates. By doing exercises that are a mix of Pilates and yoga — like doing superman or Hundreds – you’re forcing the muscles to work together, instead of just isolating a specific muscle like you do in strength training.  Specific core exercises including plank and side plank, bicycle crunches, bridge, and back extensions on a fitness ball are all amazing ways to get your core into shape!

See you at the Studio!

~Dayna
PX Studio

 

REFERENCE(S) 
American Council on Exercise
Mayo Clinic
Huffington Post
Breaking Muscle.com
Health.com

 

 

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