Core muscles are more than just abs. Your core are the muscles that help support and move your spine, pelvis, rib cage, and hips.
Having strong core muscles that work together properly is important for all movement—from sports to basic functions of daily life. A strong core can help prevent injuries, improve balance, and promote proper muscle development.
In addition to abdominal muscles, the core muscles include all the muscles of the lower back and shoulders, the internal and external obliques, pelvic muscles, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings. Deep core muscles, such as the multifidus muscle and pelvic floor muscles, are endurance type muscles that work constantly to stabilize posture. Superficial core muscles, such as the rectus abdominus, are more powerful and are typically involved in producing forceful motion.
Therefore, to maximize core strength, working one or one isolated groups of muscles is not enough. You need to work several muscle groups together.
While no one is ever completely safe from injury, strong core muscles are thought to go a long way toward injury prevention in both sports and routine activities, like carrying groceries or picking up a child. Weakness of core muscles also may be related to the development of chronic back pain, one of the most common medical complaints.
Injury avoidance includes:
Core strength plays a role in many sports:
There are several ways to strengthen your core muscles. Talk to a certified personal trainer or instructor to see which is best for you and to make sure you are doing it right. Work on strengthening core muscles 3 times per week for at least 15 minutes per session or longer.
American Council on Exercise
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Martuscello JM, Nuzzo JL, Ashley CD, Campbell BI, Orriola JJ, Mayer JM. Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(6):1684-1698.
Muscles of the core. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/blog/3562/muscles-of-the-core. Accessed September 17, 2017.
Phillips E. Build your core muscles for a healthier, more active future. Harvard Health website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/build-your-core-muscles-for-a-healthier-more-active-future-201212285698. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Rethinking core training. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: https://www.acefitness.org/blog/1729. Accessed September 21, 2017.
Rivera CE. Core and lumbopelvic stabilization in runners. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2016;27(1):319-337.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 11/13/2013