What is Your Core, Anyway?

 And where does it live?

Ben Greenfield,
September 29, 2011

What Is Your Core, Anyways?

Core is a big buzzword in fitness. We have core training classes, learn to run with our core, keep our core protected, and lift with our core. But what is the core?

In the episode, How To Get A Flat Stomach, I describe the four muscles of the stomach that wrap like a belt around the midsection. These are:

  • The rectus abdominis: One big sheet of muscle tissue that runs from your breastbone down to your pelvis.

  • The external obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a forward direction.

  • The internal obliques: Run from your ribs to your hips in a backwards direction

  • The transverses abdominis: Located deep in your abs, underneath the obliques

But the core goes way beyond these four abdominal muscles, and includes the muscles of your lower back, your pelvic floor, and your hips. There are over 15 of these muscles, and they even include the diaphragm, a core breathing muscle!

When you put all these muscles together, they form the “core” of your body and the “core” of your movement patterns. In other words, if you bend down, pick up a weight and lift it overhead, each of these core muscles becomes involved. This is why a movement like the squat to overhead press is a far more effective core training exercise than simply sitting on a machine and pressing a weight overhead.

If the core muscles are weak, you can’t breathe as deeply, lift as heavily, or move as quickly – so learn how to train your core! Why not start with the workout I explain in How To Make Your Abs Stronger?  And if you already have what you consider to be a strong core, and are up for a real challenge, try this workout.

Core image courtesy of Shutterstock