Many health practitioners and personal trainers talk about “strengthening the core” and the importance of “core strength.” But what does it all mean?
Your back and abdominals make up the core of your body. It is what connects the upper body to the lower body. The ribcage is there to protect the major organs in the upper thorax (lungs & heart) but it is the layers of abdominal muscles that protect the organs in the lower thorax (stomach, intestines, liver, etc.). There are four layers of muscles in this lower area that wrap the abdominals in many directions. Not only are they protecting your organs, but they are supporting circulation and healthy organ function.
A deeper look
As mentioned, the core is multi-layered. The deepest lawyer is the Transverse Abdominals (TVA). It runs horizontally, wrapping your waist like a belt. In fact, it acts as a natural weight belt or girdle that is the key to stabilization, and assists the spine. If you have a “paunch” belly, it is a sign of a dysfunctional deep abdominal wall.
The next layer of the abdominal walls consists of the external & internal oblique muscles. They run diagonally across your trunk in a sort of “X” formation and crisscross to the sides of your torso. They assist you in rotating your bodies and help you to move from side to side.
On the very top layer, you have the Rectus Abdominals. They are the top layer of the abdominal wall and are more commonly known as the “six pack” or “washboard” area. This is the outermost protection for your organs. They connect from the upper ribcage right down to the pelvic bone. This is the muscle in the abdomen that is most commonly trained, usually improperly and with bad quality “crunch-style” exercises.
The many layers of your abdominal wall wrap the core in a protective package. If your core has some weak areas it can cause serious problems. One common and quite serious problem, more frequent in women, is called Visarapotosis. This occurs when the deep abdominal wall is too weak to support the organs. If the wall can’t provide support, the organs inside such as the liver, colon, and stomach will begin to sag, putting pressure on the digestive tract, uterus, and bladder. Correcting any core-imbalances will help to fix this problem.
Another issue that is common from weak core stability is back pain. Back pain, more often than not, can be attributed to imbalances within the abdominal walls. Using corrective strengthening exercises will assist in minimizing these types of pain.
To properly train the core, you should be assessed to understand where the weakest areas of your abdominal wall are. This will determine the course of training and strengthening your core, giving you optimal abdominal fitness.