TO THE CORE
Want to dance, swim, play tennis, golf? Goof around with your kids/grandkids/pets? Or just, say, bend over and tie up your shoes without the risk of putting your lower back out one day? Well, keep on coming to class then, because every single thing you do requires a strong core.
A high percentage of Jazzercise routines are choreographed to strengthen your core. I’m sure you hear instructors going on about “the core” all the time. But what exactly is “the core”? And why is it crucial to your physical fitness?
I used to think of the core as just our abdominal muscles, but it goes way beyond that. Broadly speaking, think torso. Here’s a simple description from Wikipedia: “The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back (not the shoulders), and peripherally include the hips, the shoulders and the neck.”
But since the core is so important, with shape.com saying things like, “Your core is your entire support system” and “Core strength is crucial in every movement you do”, let’s try to gain a deeper understanding of what exactly it is we’re strengthening.
First off, the muscles of the belly are comprised of more than just the outer layer, or rectus abdominis, where pretty much every one of us would love to show off a six-pack. There’s also a deep layer called transverse (sometimes aptly referred to as “corset” or “Spanx”) and the obliques (the largest of the ab muscles) or sides, which allow for lateral and rotational movement.
Beyond the belly are the various muscles related to the mid and lower back that stabilize your spine, in Latinspeak: erector spinae, multifidus and longissimus. The pelvic floor and the diaphragm (the main muscle involved in breathing, so kinda important) are also included. Minor core muscles include some other Latinspeak terms that we simplify as:
*the lats - which run from mid to lower back and are the largest muscles of the upper body
*the traps – I call them this because energy tends to get trapped there (on me anyway). They’re the triangular ones in the upper back that also wrap the side of the neck.
*the glutes – the main extensor muscle of the hip, which also forms the shape of your butt
A strong core allows for efficient energy transfer between your upper and lower body. The mayoclinic.org also points out: “Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities.”
Besthealthmag.ca cites another five benefits to having a strong core:
1) Prevention of injuries
2) Protection of inner organs and central nervous system
3) Avoidance of back pain - keeps ab and back muscles in balance
4) Strong posture – which also gives the appearance of confidence
5) You feel good
Sporting a six-pack sure would be cool and aesthetically pleasing, but as you can see, that’s just the tip of the core iceberg. By coming to class regularly, you’ll continuously strengthen all of your core muscles, especially those unseen ones, deep in the belly and the back, that support your entire body and promote overall good health and well-being.
by Rita Hartley