What are Core Muscles? How do I Strengthen my Core?

A woman with great core muscles doing a plank-like exercise on a stone wall under the words "Core Muscles"

When people hear the term “core muscles,” they generally think about their abs. However, your core consists of much more than that. Core muscles are essentially all of the muscles that make up your torso – from just below your pecs to the bottom of your abs to the muscles in your back. When you’re attempting to strengthen your core (whether for health or fitness reasons), you want to focus on each of these muscles. Read on to learn more about your core muscles and the importance of strengthening all of them.

How to Identify your Major Core Muscles

The best way to locate your core muscles is to activate them. The major core muscles are:

Rectus Abdominis (Abs)

These are the muscles associated with a 6-pack. To locate them, bend forward to a 90-degree angle and feel how they help you hold yourself at that position. As long as you hold your spine stable, you should also feel the multifidi in your back activate.

Obliques (Side Muscles)

Twist your abdomen to the left and right.

Transverse Abdominis

Suck in your stomach. You’ll feel the muscles between your abs and obliques activate.

Erector Spinae (Major Back Muscles)

Keeping your back straight, bend backwards (but don’t bend too far!)

Using these methods to activate your major core muscles will activate your minor core muscles as well.

What do the Core Muscles Do?

The core’s main function is to act as a stabilizer. It keeps you stable during simple tasks such as standing or bending over, but it can also keep you stable during more complex tasks such as intricate yoga poses.

If you’re looking to strengthen your core, it’s best to focus on its function as a stabilizer, rather than its function as a mover. So planks are better than crunches and push-ups are better than sit-ups for strengthening your core.

Strengthening your core muscles has many benefits. If you find yourself no longer progressing with your squats, curls, bench press, or other exercises, it may be due to a weak core. Once you improve these stabilizers, you’ll be able to make greater progress in strengthening every other part of your body.

How to Strengthen your Core Muscles

Here are some signs that you’re effectively focusing on improving your core’s stabilizing effect while working out:

  • Holding your core steady. If you have to keep your abdomen aligned and still, you’re strengthening your stabilizers. This includes exercises such as push-ups and planks.

  • Twisting your body. Any exercise that involves twisting from left to right is a good way to strengthen your core. A good example of this is the Russian twist.

  • Using one arm and/or leg. If you’re only using one arm or leg to perform the exercise, you’re more likely activating your core’s stabilization effect. This includes exercises such as deadbugs and bird dogs.

If you’re looking for the most effective routines to strengthen your core, visit Texas FITT. They have great facilities for working out in and experienced trainers to help you effectively increase your fitness level.