You may do hundreds of crunches in front of the TV every evening, but you may be pleasantly surprised that you can stop doing these to better improve your core. To build a strong core you need to exercise a variety of muscles from you hips to your shoulders. Many people often believe that their core strength is there abdominal muscles. These are a very small part, as Abs have a very limited and specific action, and when experts refer to core, they are referring to the different muscles that stabilise the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. 

The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help to control your body movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. 

What Are the Core Muscles?

Different experts include different muscles in this list, but in general the muscles of the core run the length of the trunk and torso. The following list includes the most commonly identified core muscles as well as the lesser known groups.

  • Rectus Abdominis – located along the front of the abdomen, this is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to it’s appearance in fit and thin individuals.
  • Erector Spinae– This group of three muscles runs along your neck to your lower back.
  • Multifidus – located under the erector spinae along the vertebral column, these muscles extend and rotate the spine.
  • External Obliques – located on the side and front of the abdomen.
  • Internal Obliques – located under the external obliques, running in the opposite direction.
  • Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – located under the obliques, it is the deepest of the abdominal muscles (muscles of your waist) and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
  • Hip Flexors – located in front of the pelvis and upper thigh. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include: psoas majorilliacusrectus femorispectineussartorius
  • Gluteus medius and minimus – located at the side of the hip
  • Gluteus maximushamstring grouppiriformis – located in the back of the hip and upper thigh leg.
  • Hip adductors – located at medial thigh.

Training your core

You don’t need to treat your core as a separate workout, you can incorporate core exercises towards the end or in-between sets of normals regimes. Workouts that focus on core strength are great for training your stability and mean you don’t need to train it separately as often. Don’t treat core exercises with their own workout but there are a few things the bear in mind – 

  • Frequency – Once per week, the norm for most weight lifting programs.
  • Repetition Range – 6-12 the norm for most bodybuilding programs and even those for athletes.
  • Sets – 12 total for one workout.
  • Duration – 30-45 minutes, shorter workouts are best since you can focus your intensity in a shorter amount of time giving you a better workout.
  • Intensity – High intensity. Your intensity should be such that you fail or are close to it on most of your sets. If you’re a beginner take it easy please, I don’t want anyone hurting themselves.

Example core exercises to incorporate

Ab Workout

1 – Swiss Ball Sit ups or Crunches

3 sets for 6-12 reps

2 – Swiss ball leg pull in

3 sets for 6-12 reps

3 – Seated leg tucks – target obliques

3 sets for 6-12 reps

4 – Plate or Kettlebell Twist

3 sets for 6-12 reps

Lower Back

1 – Deadlift or Rack Pulls

3 sets for 6-12 reps

2 – Back Extensions

3 sets for 6-12 reps

3 – Good Mornings

3 sets for 6-12 reps

Benefits of Good Core Strength

The main benefits of having a good core are:

1 – Increased overall strength

2 – Increased coordination

3 – Increased stability and balance

4 – Increased performance