Training Your Core Muscles

Published:  01/03/2018

woman in pink workout outfit

Training your core muscles is essential for improving stability and overall functional fitness. A strong core helps maintain proper posture, provides support for your spine, and enhances your ability to perform various movements and activities.

The true roles of the core musculature are: 

  1. to stabilize the spine;
  2. to prevent compensation movement of the pelvis while arms and legs are moving;
  3. and to transfer force between the upper and lower extremities.

So, the core's primary functions are controlling movement and force, not generating it.The most optimal core exercises and programs require the spine and hips to be held in a neutral position while the extremities produce movement that replicate the ways that the core is called upon during real life activities and sports.

Core Stability Is Crucial

Core stability is crucial for several reasons:

Injury prevention: A stable core helps protect your spine and surrounding structures, reducing the risk of injuries during physical activities. It acts as a strong foundation, transferring forces effectively and maintaining proper alignment during movements, which can prevent strains, sprains, and other musculoskeletal issues.

Improved posture: A strong and stable core supports proper posture. It helps align the spine, pelvis, and shoulders, reducing the risk of postural imbalances that can lead to discomfort, pain, and long-term postural issues.

Enhanced performance: Core stability is essential for optimal performance in various activities and sports. It allows for efficient transfer of force between the lower and upper body, enhancing power, stability, and control during movements like running, jumping, throwing, or lifting weights.

Functional movement patterns: Core stability is crucial for performing everyday movements with ease and efficiency. Activities like bending, twisting, reaching, and lifting all require a stable core to provide a solid base of support and maintain proper alignment.

Balance and coordination: A strong core contributes to better balance and coordination. It helps stabilize your body's center of gravity, allowing you to maintain balance during dynamic movements and challenging positions.

Improved spinal health: A stable core supports the spine, reducing the risk of spinal disorders and promoting overall spinal health. It can alleviate stress on the intervertebral discs, decrease the likelihood of disc herniation, and help manage conditions like lower back pain.

Functional independence: Maintaining core stability is essential for maintaining independence as you age. It allows for better mobility, stability, and the ability to perform daily tasks, which can enhance overall quality of life.

To develop core stability, it's important to train not only the superficial abdominal muscles but also the deep stabilizers, such as the transverse abdominis, multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles. A balanced approach that includes exercises targeting all aspects of core stability is recommended for optimal results.

Want a Stronger Core? Skip the Sit-ups

Sit-ups primarily target the abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis. While they can be effective for strengthening the abs, they are not the most efficient exercise for improving core stability. Here's why:

Limited muscle activation: Sit-ups predominantly focus on the rectus abdominis, neglecting other important core muscles such as the transverse abdominis, obliques, and deeper stabilizing muscles. Core stability requires a balanced development of all these muscles, not just the superficial abs.

Spinal stress: Sit-ups involve repetitive flexion and extension of the spine, which can place excessive stress on the lower back, especially if performed with improper form or if you have a history of back problems. This can lead to discomfort or injury. 

Limited functional carryover: While sit-ups can help strengthen your abdominal muscles, they have limited transfer to real-life movements and activities. Core stability, on the other hand, is essential for maintaining proper posture, balance, and stability during various functional movements, such as lifting, twisting, or reaching.

Alternatives are more effective: There are other exercises that effectively engage the entire core and promote stability, such as planks, dead bugs, bird dogs, and bridges, as mentioned earlier. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups and challenge your core stability in a more comprehensive manner.

If you enjoy doing sit-ups, have a strong core foundation and no history of back issues, they can be incorporated as part of your workout routine. However, it's generally more beneficial to focus on exercises that target the entire core and promote stability in a functional and safe manner. Always prioritize proper form and listen to your body to avoid any discomfort or injury.

Train Your Core For Good Movement Control and Force

Here are some effective exercises to train your core muscles for stability:

Chop:  To see a video demonstration of the chop exercise go here.

Dying Bug with Ball: To see a video demonstration of the Dying Bug with Ball exercise go here. This is an advanced exercise. If you are a beginner, I suggest starting iwth the next exercise called the Dead Bug. 

Dead Bug: Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg toward the floor while maintaining a stable core. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Plank: Start in a push-up position with your forearms on the ground and elbows aligned below your shoulders. Keep your body straight from head to heels, engage your core muscles, and hold the position for as long as you can while maintaining proper form.

Bird Dog: Begin on all fours with your hands aligned below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Simultaneously extend your right arm forward and your left leg backward while keeping your core engaged. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. 

Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Engage your glutes and core muscles while maintaining the position for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down. To see a video demonstration go here at 44 seconds.

Side Plank: Lie on your side with your forearm on the ground and elbow aligned below your shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your feet. Engage your core and hold the position for as long as you can. Repeat on the other side. For the advanced version Side Plank With Leg Lift demonstrated go here

Remember to start with proper form and gradually increase the intensity or duration of the exercises as your core strength improves. It's also important to combine core training with a balanced workout routine that includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises for overall fitness.


Active Nutrition is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for websites to earn advertising revenues by advertising and linking to Amazon. If you click on one of my recommended item links and then place an order through Amazon, I receive a small commission on that sale, at no extra expense to you of course. This is a way to support me and my work every time you shop at no cost to you.

Connect with Maria