Your core muscles—the ones in your back, abs, and hips (including your glutes and inner thighs)—are the most important muscle group in your body - important for common movements, such as lifting, twisting, reaching, and bending. While a well defined six pack might get more attention, a strong core is most important for overall health and good fitness.
Unfortunately, many people have weak cores and don't even know it - especially as they age. See if you are one:
Lower back pain. The lower back is one of the most common sources of recurrent pain. If the muscles surrounding your spine are weak, the vertebrae and discs of your spine won’t be properly supported. The lower back is supposed to have a forward curve to it, but weak core muscles will make this position impossible, resulting in pain in the surrounding muscles and tendons. If you don't have a serious back problem, any lower back pain is likely a result core weakness. Most people with knee, hip and shoulder pain also typically have poor core strength.
Bad posture. The muscles of the abdomen and lower back combine to hold your spine and pelvis in place. If these muscles are weak, your body will be unstable, and you won’t be able to sit or stand erectly for more than a short period. Instead, you’ll habitually assume slouched, slumped positions, which in turn will strain your muscles. Only those with strong cores can maintain a healthy posture for long periods. Note that lower back pain and poor posture are closely connected, so one is often accompanied by the other.
Bad balance. Your core muscles stabilize your entire body, so a weak core will affect your ability to balance. Since poor balance is not usually obviously noticeable, you’ll need to perform a test. Check your balance by standing on one foot with your eyes closed. Test one leg, than the other. If you can’t hold this position for at least ten seconds with both legs, your balance is subpar — probably because of an underdeveloped core.
The ‘hollowing’ test. Take a deep breath. As you begin exhaling, pull your stomach back towards your spine as far as you can. Hold this pose for ten full seconds — if you can’t make it that far, your core needs some work.
General weakness. Muscular weakness in any part of the body can be a sign of an inadequate core. Since the core provides needed stability for almost all movements, weakness in the arms and legs may be a manifestation of core weakness. For example, such actions as punching, throwing, and kicking all depend on core muscles.
The 'plank' test. Perform a plank by entering a push-up position, then holding your body so that your weight rests on your arms, elbows, and toes, with your hips held steady and level. Hold as long you can — if you can’t go at least 50 seconds before your hips give out, your core is probably too weak.
You Get Exhausted Standing in Line . Ever feel wiped after just a few minutes of waiting in the checkout line? Find yourself leaning on something to gain some energy? Stress in your hips, shoulders, neck, as well as general fatigue from standing, can all be signs of a weak core.
You Have a Hard Time Getting Up . You might not realize it but the simple act of standing up from a sitting position takes real strength. Done properly, your midsection muscles are the ones that help you rise. Have to put in more effort than you think you should (maybe you even have to lean forward and press your hands onto your thighs)? That’s a sign that because the core is weak, your body is recruiting other muscles to do the job.
Talk to your YMCA of Greater Birmingham branch Health Coach or Personal Trainer about specific exercises you can do to stregthen your core. Find your branch https://www.ymcabham.org/locations #YStrongBham
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