Many people talk about strengthening their Core. It's become a common catchphrase among personal trainers, yoga teachers, and massage therapists. There are even classes that focus on Core Strength.
But what exactly is Core? There is no muscle in the body called "Core".
Core refers to a group of muscles that work to stabilize your spine and the pelvic girdle. These muscles protect you from getting hurt from excessive movement due to instability. When weak (= weak core), these muscles don't work too well to keep you stable, and injuries are likely (ex. 'throwing your back out' when playing golf or tennis, or perforning a twist in a yoga class).
Imagine throwing a heavy ball while standing in a row boat. Your feet would shift out from under you causing you to lose balance. The same thing happens to your joints when they are not stabilized by these core muscles. Every time you move, there is a possibility of injury.
What are the core muscles?
1. Transverse Abdominis - a wide sheet that wraps around your mid-section. If you are sitting now, make a small effort to stand up - the Transverse tightens up first before you even lift off the chair.
2. Obliques - Internal and External - similar to TA, but with fibers running diagonally instead of across the body.
3. Deep Spinal Erector Muscles - Multifidus - these are short and deep muscles (the closest muscles to the spine) that stabilize each individual vertebra.
4. Psoas - the deepest hip flexor that attaches to the lumbar vertebrae and runs inside the pelvis bowl. The psoas stabilizes the pelvic girdle in relation to the spine.
5. The Pelvic floor muscles (bottom) and the Diaphragm (top) - these deep muscles facilitate with overall stability.
6. Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus - technically not core muscles but play a vital role in pelvic girdle and femur stability.
When injuries happen
Find a Physical Therapist, or a massage therapist, specializing in soft tissue rehab. And then, focus on core strength.