The core muscles, which are responsible for supporting and stabilizing the spine, hips, and pelvis, form the basis for virtually every movement we make. So, including core strengthening exercises in your fitness workout is a solid step toward retaining mobility and staying pain-free throughout life. Unfortunately, the popularity of ab workouts makes it easy to be tricked into believing you’re getting a total core workout, when the reality is that ab exercises, while important, only make up a small portion of the core muscles. The core muscles that stabilize your lumbar spine are akin to the guy wires of a circus tent that support the center mast. If the guy wires are uniformly weak and inhibited,or if they are strong in some places and weak in others, the mast will buckle. The muscles of the core can be thought of as a cylinder that encompass the entire lumbar spine from all four sides, top and bottom. The abdominal wall forms the front (rectus abdominus). The obliques and quadratrus lumborum make up the sides. The multifidi and erector spinae muscle groups are the posterior part of the core. The diaphragm (top) and pelvic floor muscles (bottom) also help provide support to the core. Finally the transversus abnominus is a hoop-like muscle that wraps around the flanks and abdomen to provide significant core stability.
Some of the best exercises for strengthening the core are known as “bracing exercises.” Bracing exercises focus on the muscles along the spine, trunk, and torso, which are often difficult to work through direct means. Generally, to improve core strength, exercises are done using body weight alone, held in a static position. Some of the best core strengthening exercises include planks, side bridges and birddogs. The basics of a core stability program can be taught to anyone (no matter your age or fitness level), and are a mainstay for good spinal health and prevention of injury.