Most times when people think of a strong core, they think of the six-pack abs, otherwise known as the rectus abdominis muscle group. These illustrious group of muscles, denote strength in the fitness world and get all the praise for someone having a strong core. However a strong core is much more than that, a strong core is a group of six muscle groups that comprise what we call the “powerhouse”. It is comprised of the transverse abdominis, multifidus muscle, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis and the erector spinae.
A strong core is essential to everything you do physically. My Pilates instructor would say “… a strong core is like the trunk of the tree, it supports all of the limbs.” Both in yoga and dance a strong core is essential. Great dancers have incredibly strong cores. Remember all those buff guys in Magic Mike? If you watch closely, all of their fly moves stem from the core. What about all of the intermediate yoga poses like crow, headstand, and forearm stand? You must have a strong core to achieve those poses, it’s what helps you get into to the pose and stay there.
A strong core even helps with certain physical alignments. Ten years ago from a daily two-hour commute to and from Boston, carrying my laptop on one shoulder, I got the worse sciatic pain. It was the first time in my life I had to go to physical therapy. One of the things the therapist told me was that I had to strengthen my core. I was on a mission after that. I built in a fifteen/twenty minute core workout every day as part of my gym workout for the next five years at least. Guess what? It worked. I have long since diversified my workout due to all the classes I teach, however I’ve never had sciatic pain again.
Core strengthening is the most important work you should do. You should include a few core strengthening exercises no matter what your fitness regime is. There is a variety of core strengthening exercises to choose from. There are also many exercise machines designed to target the core area. Variety is good when it comes to strengthening your core. My favorite exercises are the ones where you have to use your own body weight like high planks, low planks, side planks, form arm planks etc. Both yoga, and dance inherently strengthen your core, however if you can build in extra core strengthening to your fitness workout schedule, do it! You can never do too much core work.