SENIOR FITNESS: Core strength
Most of us know that we should exercise for health, fitness and longevity. Some of us think that exercise consists mostly of pushups, bicep curls, barbells, dumbbells and lots of effort.
A few of us have heard about ‘core strength,’ but don’t know exactly what that means or why might it be important?
WHAT IS Core Strength?
Core strength is the condition of your core muscles – the ones around your entire thoracic region: your abdomen, back and pelvis. Think of it as the part of your body between your arms and your legs.
This is the ‘torso’ or the ‘center of gravity’ of your body. It holds your body together and is involved in almost every movement you make (swinging a golf club, raising a glass of wine, tying your shoes or even sleeping).
We can technically describe the ‘core’ as the major muscles (transversus abdominis, multifidus, rector spinae, etc.) and the minor muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius etc.). But this does not help us to understand what they do.
What they do
They stabilize your body. Every movement you make in daily life involves the core. Getting out of bed, lifting groceries or getting off the toilet. Your ‘core’ is working.
Core stability is the ability to control the position and movement of your body. The greater the core strength, the greater the level of control over the entire body.
When you move, the core muscles contract around the viscera (which are not compressible) to form a stable ball-like platform against which forces of movement are balanced in a coordinated fashion.
Even lifting those dumbbells and barbells requires your core to support that effort with muscular tension. Your core provides the platform for any strenuous physical effort.
While there are some genetic conditions related to poor posture, a major reason is often a lack of core muscle strength. The cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine is comprised of 24 presacral vertebrae which are supported by your core muscles and are responsible for posture and stability.
Without core strength you cannot have healthy posture.
Yes, core muscles make breathing possible. Your diaphragm is how you breathe, and it is part of your core muscle system. Every breath you take depends on some core muscle.
Strong core muscles allow you to function better and prevent injuries from falling. Strong core muscles and a neutral spine minimize injures such as hernias, strains and sprains.
Strong core muscles reduce or eliminate many sources of back pain which cause intense suffering and 264 million lost workdays each year.
Simple! Exercise your core. Any exercise that uses your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated manner is a core exercise.
At home you can do plank or bridge exercises. For example, a bridge is when you lie on your back with your knees bent, then tighten your abdomen and lift your hips off the floor. You can do many core exercises at home.
At the gym however, you have many more options to strengthen your core — specialized equipment, TRX systems, group exercise, dance, yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, HITT, stationary cycling, swimming and more.
It is important to start correctly, prevent injuries and develop progressive exercise routines. That is the role of expert trainers who have the knowledge and skills to ensure safe and effective progress.
Remember what Mickey Mantle said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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