Core Strength- What is it? Why is it important?

Despite the fact “Core training” has been around for years it is still often misunderstood.  For many people when they hear the word “Core” their mind autocorrects this to “abs”.  As a trainer it still frustrates me when I see classes advertised as “core classes” which include a 100 different ways of doing sit-ups and crunches. Whilst those exercises aren’t completely useless “core strength” requires a different approach.  The reason for this is that core muscles include so much more than just your tummy muscles. In addition to this sit-ups and crunches are also not the answer to getting a flat stomach, the other reason people often do these. The reason for this however will require a blog all of its own.

So what are my core muscles?

Quite simply put your “core” is everything excluding your arms and legs. It is often considered to include only the abdominal and lower back muscles, this however is too narrow a view. It can broadly be described as composing of 3 layers – deep, middle and outer. The first two layers work together to stabilise your spine and as such are often referred to as stabilisers. These include your, Transverspinalis, Transverse abdominis, Internal obliques, Lumber multifidus, Diaphragm and Pelvic floor muscles.  The outer layer includes your, Rectus abdominis, External obliques, Erector spinae, Latissimus dorsi, the Gluteals and Abductor/Adductors.  These muscles form sling systems, which work off the stability provided by the other two layers to allow your body to move freely. The more stable you are, the more efficient and powerful your movements will be during exercise and every day activities. A strong relationship between these layers will also reduce the likeliness of injury.

How do I strengthen my core?

What you need to do will depend on how well trained your core is currently. You can test this by doing something as simple as seeing how easily you can hold a plank position. You can then progressively make this harder by removing a point of contact, as in removing one foot from the ground without having to tilt the hips or shoulders to compensate. Once you have identified this you can progressively increase the amount of core contribution you include into your workout. An example would be moving from a plank performed on the floor to a plank performed resting your arms on an unstable surface such as stability balls or wobble board.  You would then move onto full body functional movements that seek to place demands on the core in all planes of movement. An example of this type of exercise is a wood chop, which can be performed using no weight or by adding weight.

To get your own customized “core” programme contact us at or why not head to our Facebook page to take part in this weeks Plank Challenge.

Ewan Gray- Fitness Manager and Personal Trainer


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