Fitness instructors point out that it is essential to keep the core muscles — the muscles around your trunk and pelvis — in better shape. Ever wondered why?When the core muscles, a complex group, is strong, the frame of the body is well-supported such that it takes away the stress from neck and shoulders, allowing the rest of the muscles and joints to work at their optimum capacity. “You need them to even nod your head,” points out Dr Nandlal Pathak, principal physiotherapist and co-founder Synchrony Orthopedic and Sports Physiotherapy Clinic, Noida, reports The Statesman.
“Other than helping you attain a flat stomach or six/eight-pack abs, the primary function of core muscles is to provide stability to the spine. They help in stabilising your body for upper body movement and also act as a link between the lower half and upper half of the body. So, no matter what movement you do, like walking, running or lifting your arm, core muscles are essential,” he explains.
While the human body is made up of blood, bones and muscles, it is the muscles which are “probably the most important” because they hold the bones together, constitute the organs and help them function, says Dr Ismit Tyagi, head of department, physiotherapy, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram. “The skeletal muscles are attached to the bones and the skin, and its contraction helps limbs and other body parts move. The muscle located in the abdomen area is our core,” explains Dr Tyagi.
What are core muscles?
Made up of three sheaths of muscles in the front and the back, core muscles are divided into the upper sheath or abdominals and back extensors, side ones known as obliques, and the deeper layers known as stabilisers. “These deeper ones do most of the good work like supporting your spine, much like a corset. Some newer studies have also included glutes, pelvic floor, and diaphragm in the core muscle group,” explains Dr Pathak.
An unstable or weak core can cause back pain and specific core instability showing symptoms such as sudden jolts of back pain for no particular reason; sudden and severe back pain with noticeable difficulty while standing straight after bending forwards.Some of the telling signs are:
Poor posture, right from slumped shoulders to an inability to stand or sit up straight.
Back pain, which comes from a lack of strength in the opposing abdominal muscles. Since the muscles are not able to support as much as they should have, the back overworks itself during lifting, running and other exercises.
Overall weakness and fatigue, including shortness of breath, inability to hold in your stomach without feeling strain or pain.
Why are core exercises necessary?
As weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance and make one prone to injuries, including core exercises in your workout mix can help you reach your fitness goals better, contends Dr Tyagi. This is applicable to not only athletes but any fitness enthusiast who wishes to become faster and stronger, adds Dr Pathak.
What core exercises should one incorporate in their fitness routine?
Any exercise that uses your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated manner is a core exercise and can help tone your abs. Strong core muscles make most physical activities easier and are also important for athletes, such as runners.
Beginners may try some specific but easy core exercises including planks, sit-ups and those using a fitness ball. One can also use free-weights that involves maintaining a stable trunk. This exercise can train and strengthen several of your muscles, including the core muscles. A simple exercise like the bridge is another example of a classic core exercise.