"I gotta work on my core".
That's one of the most common things I hear people say when they want to strengthen areas for their low back, have more "stability", or improve their abdominal definition.
Let's just set the record straight. When talking about your "core", it is not solely defined as the abs. It encompasses everything that controls the position of our ribcage and pelvis. The muscles involved keep these two structures in a relationship that benefits our movement and transfer of force with control.
Some of the bigger, well-known muscles that make up the core include: the glutes, the hamstrings, the hip flexors (Psoas, illacus, and rectus femoris), erector spinae, the lats, the obliques (internal and external), transversus abdominis, and the adductors.
All of these muscles either attach to the pelvis, ribcage, or the spine. Some may run thru the spine and pelvis, or the rib cage and pelvis, creating a connection between the whole system.
Now that we look at it, this whole "core" thing seems to get a lot busier than just or "6-pack". In fact, the rectus abdominis is really just a small strap of muscle that connects from the sternum to a small area in the center of the pelvis in front called the pubis.
If we look at the other abdominal muscles such as the obliques and transversus abdominis, we can see that they wrap around from the side of our ribcage and along the crest of the pelvis, leaving a larger surface area of muscle.
If I were to ask you, what muscles do you think have more leverage to control the body, it would be a no brainer to see the larger surface area of the obliques and transversus abdominis would be the answer. The recuts has it's place, but gets over emphasized due to its appeal of the 6-pack, but does not help control the "core".
As we take a step and move from one leg to the next, the muscles in the pelvis (see picture above) have to stabilize the body and keep one side of the pelvis still (the stance leg) as the other side moves ahead (the swing leg). We rotate thru the trunk from side to side as we walk as well, meaning the obliques need to turn the rib cage along with muscles in the spine to stabilize the movement.
All of these muscles need to work in a synchronized pattern in order for fluid motion to occur, and prevent compensations that over work one area of the body.
I don't think having a 6-pack will help you do that.
If you want to keep training that one muscle for "core" training, by all means, have a blast.
If you want to improve your core stability, then you need to find where your weak link is in the chain.
Do you have a poor ability to control the pelvis? How about rotation thru the ribcage? Is it a combination of both?
If you can perform compound movements such as a squat, deadlift, or split squat with good control, you will be hitting many muscles involved in stabilizing the body, and indirectly be strengthening the "core".
Other things to help with rotation would be to do a chop, deadbugs, or shoulder taps, as they challenge you with limbs moving around a fixed point.
Maybe I struck some nerves with dumping all over the 6-pack, but I'm here to function and be at top performance, not to look good at the beach only (secret we can still have both things).
Maybe you get overwhelmed with all this core stuff and want more help because you can't stand having discomfort or you've tried some of these things with no luck.
I'm here for you.
All you have to do is send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And I'll get back to you with some solid answers.
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and enjoys to help active adults maintain their lifestyle and provide natural solutions to their pain.