The idea of “working your core” is nothing new when it comes to fitness. It’s a phrase you’ll hear over and over again. Do this exercise because it’ll work your core. Do these stomach crunches as they work for your core. You may even have followed along with the idea in the past, doing things for the benefit of something that… well, it’s not well defined what the ‘core’ is, is it?
It’s more just referred to as something you need to work on, without really citing why. It helps that it sounds important. The core of your body. It runs right through your body, gets to the heart of things, so we naturally accept that it must be important and follow through on any advice designed to target it.
So… What Is It?
The ‘core’ of your body can be anything, really – it’s not a particularly well-defined term. In general, when people reference it they are referring to the central part of your body. In terms of muscles, it’s your abdomen and other supportive muscles in your back. The term can also be extended to mean the hips, pelvis, and the network of tendons and muscles that surround them.
Let’s simplify and call it: your back and stomach. Anything from the armpits down to the top of your hips. That’s your core.
So Why Is It Important?
Lower back pain is a problem for a huge amount of people – and it doesn’t discriminate on age or fitness level. When your back is injured, it blows everything else out. If you hurt your hand, it’s relatively simple to isolate it and not further aggravate the injury. If you hurt your back… there’s no isolating that. It’s involved in almost every movement you do.
Core exercise is important to strengthen a fundamentally weak, vulnerable area. If the area is strong, it protects against the rigours of life that your back has to go through. Even something as simple as bending down to pick up a cabinet can wreck your back if you’re weak in that area, so it makes sense – from a pure quality of life perspective – to want the area to withstand as much stress as possible.
So How Do You Do It?
You may think that the answer is stomach crunches, but it’s not. Stomach crunches do work the core, but it’s way too easy to do them incorrectly and actually cause more damage as a result.
The best ways of working the area without causing undue stress are actually lifestyle based. Something as simple – and fun! – as using Swegways can help strengthen the area; the balance required to stay upright is going to work more muscle groups than any stomach crunch ever could.
For everyday life, then it’s worth considering switching out your office chair in favour of an inflatable Swiss ball. As the ball is inherently unstable, throughout the day, you will find yourself having to make constant micro-adjustments to stay upright. It’s this kind of low-impact work that reaps the highest benefits in terms of the core. So stay away from the crunches and use simple lifestyle changes – that’s the kind of exercise advice that we can all live by!