What Exactly Are The Core Muscles?
The torso, the largest part of the body, contains the core muscles.
Most people think of the abdomen when they hear the words core muscles but they’re more than just the abs although, certainly, the abdominal muscles are a large part of core muscles.
Muscles like the rectus abdominis are those core muscles that form the much referred to “six-pack”.
Right besides the rectus abdominis are the external and internal obliques. Ignore these muscles and you develop a great set of love handles.
Deep underneath the other muscles of the abdomen lie the transverse abdominis.
All of these muscles provide protection for the internal organs and help stabilize the body so that the back doesn’t have to work as hard.
All the muscles in the hips are core muscles.
Those smaller muscles that make up the hip flexors include;
- psoas major
- rectus femoris
These muscles, located in the front of the pelvis also include the muscles in the front and top of the thigh. At the side of the hip are the gluteus medius and minimus and of course, your bottom is the gluteus maximus.
Some muscles at the upper portion of the back of the thigh are included in this group of core muscles, the hamstrings and piriformis.
The final core muscles are in the back.
The erector spinae are three muscles that run from the neck all the way down to the lower back. Those are the large muscles that you feel along the spine. Underneath them are the multifidus used to rotate the spine.
Start with the abdominal muscles. Crunches of all kinds give the abs a great workout.
- To do regular crunch just lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
Put your hands to the side of your head and exhale as you lift your head off the floor slightly. Be careful not to strain your neck.
- If you want to make the exercise a little more difficult, perform it on an exercise ball.
Keep your feet flat on the floor and thighs parallel to it. Lift the head like a regular crunch.
The narrower the space is between your legs the more the obliques get a work out.
- A third great crunch works all the muscles in the abdominal area is the bicycle crunch.
Lie in crunch position and lift both the legs and the head off the floor. Bring the left knee forward as you bring the right elbow forward and attempt to touch.
Then in true bicycle fashion move the left leg back and pedal up the right leg to touch the left elbow.
- Another exercise for the obliques keeps you down in crunch position.
This time you tighten the abs and keep your upper back on the floor as you drop your knees to the side.
Only go as far as you can without pain. Hold the position and breathe deeply. Bring your legs back up and then slowly drop the knees to the other side.
Tighten the muscles in the hips while you lay on your back.
Start in the same position as you would a crunch but don’t crunch. This time you lift your gluteus maximus off the floor, your bottom, that is.
Hold the hips up off the floor for a slow count of three and then lower them back down.
- An easy tummy tucker that lends itself to short breaks throughout the day is abdominal bracing.
Bend over slightly, putting your hands on your knees and blow all the air out of your lungs.
Pull the abdomen in tightly until you feel it touches your backbone. Hold the position as you breathe in and exhale one more time.
These exercises, yoga, Pilates, medicine ball workouts, weights and more, strengthen the core muscles to protect your back, organs and keep you on the move.
Other great exercises for the core muscles are squats, lunges and side lunges and push-ups.