Core Strength-More than just a 6 pack

core strength importance low back health

I recently began working with Travis. He is a young guy with a strenuous job of cleaning carpets. He sits in the truck and then is bent over in the position he cleans in.  He came to see me for low back pain and neck pain. We are doing a series of exercise and stretches to strengthen his core muscles and get his front body and back body to work together to create a stabilized center.  So far from the two weeks we have worked together (3 times a week), his improvement is outstanding. He is sleeping better at night and his headaches have gone away.

What is Core Strength?

Core Strength is extremely important for a number of reasons.  Many people think of abs or core strength as that six pack look and appeal.  It is so much more than that.  Your abdominal muscles are a part of your core, but several muscles are involved in what your core is. The abdominal and back muscles work together to create your overall core strength.  Lack of these muscles working, and lack of them working together, creates imbalances that in then turn create problems. A prime example is low back pain. Problems of a week core can go beyond just the low back too. Why?  Because the muscles of the low back are connected to other muscles that respond to the weakened low back, and therefore tighten or shorten creating other physical symptoms and limitations.

So rather than focusing solely on crunches to build that six pack, it is recommend to think of the core as what gives you posture, and support, and stabilizes you to protect the precious spinal column. If you sit often, training and strengthening these muscles is very necessary.

What are Core Muscles? 

  • External Obliques-Side abdominal muscles
  • Internal Obliques-located under the external obliques, running perpendicular to them
  • Rectus Abdominis– Front ab muscles.  The ones that create the “6 pack”.
  • Hip Flexors-This group makes up the muscles in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. There are many muscles that make up the hip flexors. The Psoas is the deepest and one we talked about last week.
  • Transverse Abdomonis- the deepest of the ab muscles located under the obliques. These muscles are tend to get ingnored and not properly conditioned and strengthened, being they are so deep.
  • Erector Spinae-Bundle of muscles and tendons that extend the upper, middle, and lower back. These muscles straighten and rotate the back.
  • Multifidus-Muscles and tendons located under the Erector Spinae that help stabilize the spinal column.

The benefits of good core strength are both important and so very helpful in helping to prevent and alleviate low back pain.  Learning to use the body functionally and developing deep core strength is an essential part of well being. Isolating the ab muscles solely, will not develop a balance in the body and lead to problems with ligaments, joints, weakened muscles, and discs between the vertabra.  Check out my exercise page and find some exercises and movements to strengthen your core.

And please, pay attention to how you sit and stand. Slouching, rounding, standing with the “duck feet”, and so on, is from weak muscles.  If you find yourself doing this, it’s time for some strengthening and stretching. Be conscious of your belly muscles and engage the front stomach muscles to connect to your back muscles. Feel as though your torso moves as a unit.  And remember to not hold your breath!  It’s easy to do when you are getting used to something and you not sure where you breathing should be.  It is however, very important to breathe!