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Published: Fall, 2007; Vol 9, Num 3

 

Strengthening the ‘CORE’

In layman’s terms, the ‘core’ refers to the body minus the arms, legs and head. Most bodily movements are highly dependent on the core. A strong core is key to your body’s overall strength and performance.

The major muscles of the core are in the area of the stomach, mid to lower back, hips, shoulders and the neck. These muscles are at the center of all strength and power movements as well as the muscular connection between your upper and lower body.

The stronger these muscles are, the more support and stability they provide for high productivity and agility. If these muscles are weak and unable to supply the stability required for your activity, injury is likely to occur and bad posture can develop.

A Laborer’s job is physically demanding, and a strong core will help handle any obstacles or strenuous situations.

What is the core?

Twenty-nine muscles make up the body’s core. They are:

  • Abdominals – the muscles of the waist, which wrap around the spine
  • Obliques – the muscles on the side and front of the abdomen, around the waist
  • Rectus – a long muscle that runs along the front of the abdomen (the six-pack part of the abs)
  • Erector – a collection of muscles along the neck to the lower back

These muscles provide a protective shield for the spinal cord and internal organs of the body.

Why is core work important?

Strengthening your core will allow your body to efficiently transfer force from the lower to the upper body and back again, thus ensuring that any force you exert to move your body forward is not wasted moving your body sideways. This kind of strength helps minimize the risk of sprain and strain injuries. Also, a strong core will allow you to keep optimal body alignment for whatever you’re doing – work or recreation – and this, in turn, will reduce your fatigue in the long run.

A weak core will create an imbalance causing a common problem for Laborers: back pain. Back pain is associated with all the muscles, tendons and ligaments in that part of the body. With a weak core, the back will be one of the first places to feel the strain.

How to strengthen the core

One problem in core exercise is that most people equate “core” with abs only. The reality is that the core includes your upper back muscles (head carriage), gluteus (pelvis stabilization) and obliques, along with the stomach muscles that are considered “abs.”

Body core exercises need to be gentle on your joints but intense enough to promote a positive change in the muscle structure.

One of the most important things to remember is to use proper form at all times on all exercises.

All body core exercises are functional exercises. This means that while exercising, the body moves in the same way it moves during activities in everyday life.

The three most popular forms of exercise that develop core body strength are pilates, yoga and the exercise ball.

  • Pilates involve using the body’s own weight as resistance. It also incorporates proper breathing and helps to isolate certain muscle groups. Every movement in the pilates method has a purpose, with the focus on performing a precise and perfect movement. Hopefully, this becomes second nature and carries over into everyday life.
  • The exercise ball’s primary benefit is that the body responds to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, engaging many more muscles. The core body muscles – abdominal and back muscles – are the focus of exercise ball fitness programs.
  • Yoga poses are all about building core strength. The slow, focused movements require a strong mid-section, and the isometric contractions of many exercises will add a new form of resistance training to your typical machine-based workouts.

Make no mistake about it, improved core strength and development is important at every age and fitness level. This will help in the long run to reduce muscle strains and pain, while improving over-all strength and mobility, all leading to a more active and healthy life.

Related links

For more information related to ‘core issues’ try these websites or contact a local workout facility for classes being offered.

Mayo Clinic

About.com

ChangingShape.com

[By Mark Dempsey]