Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabilizer for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another, or initiate movement itself. Our core has three-dimensional depth and functional movement in all three planes of motion.Many of the muscles are hidden beneath the exterior musculature people typically train. The deeper muscles include the transverse abdominals, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and many other deeper muscles.
What the Core Does
Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover. Yet consistently people focus on training their core as a prime mover and in isolation. This would be doing crunches or back extensions versus functional movements like deadlifts, overhead squats, and pushups, among many other functional closed chain exercises.1 By training that way, not only are you missing out on a major function of the core, but also better strength gains, more efficient movement, and longevity of health.
We must look at core strength as the ability to produce force with respect to core stability, which is the ability to control the force we produce. There are five different components of core stability: strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and function. Without motor control and function, the other three components are useless, like a fish flopping out of water no matter how strong you are or how much endurance you have.
It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and then dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability. This can include running, performing Olympic lifts, or picking up the gallon of milk far back in the fridge while keeping your back safe. Research has shown that athletes with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury.