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Strengthen Your Core

Core Strength and Good Posture


Updated May 16, 2014

Strengthen Your Core
If you're following the trends in exercise and fitness, you've probably heard the phrase "core strength." Core strength refers to the muscles of your abs and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced. Learn how to strengthen your core, reduce back pain and get strong abs.

Core Muscles

The major muscles of your core include:

  • Transverse Abdominis (TVA)-The deepest of the abdominal muscles, this lies under the obliques (muscles of your waist). It acts like a weight belt, wrapping around your spine for protection and stability.Target Exercise: Plank
  • External Obliques-These muscles are on the side and front of the abdomen, around your waist.Target Exercise: Arm Sweep
  • Internal Obliques-These muscles lie under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.Target Exercise: Crossover Crunch
  • Rectus Abdominis-The Rectus Abdominis is a long muscle that extends along the front of the abdomen. This is the 'six-pack' part of the abs that becomes visible with reduced body fat. Target Exercise: Crunch
  • Erector Spinae -The erector spinae is actually a collection of three muscles along your neck to your lower back. Target Exercise: Back Extension

Be sure to target these muscles in your strength training workouts. While ab muscles can't be separated (they all work together in each exercise), there are exercises that favor certain portions of the abs, as listed above.

Core Strength and Back Pain

When the core muscles are weak or there's an imbalance (say you work your rectus abdominis with crunches but fail to strengthen your TVA), a common side effect is back pain. Many of us experience lower back pain from:

Back pain is common because so many muscles have to contract and relax in order to allow you to stand and move. Tendons attach muscles to bones, ligaments hold your vertebrae together and muscles protect your spine and hold your body in place. If all of these are healthy and strong, you're good to go. But, if you have weak muscles, poor posture and/or excess weight and your back will be one of the first places you feel the strain.

Dealing With Back Pain

First, see your doctor to rule out major injuries. If your doctor gives you the okay, you can get busy strengthening your torso. Your first step? Posture.

Next page Good Posture Page 1, 2, 3

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