The core muscles (the muscles of the low-back, abdominals and hips) provide stability for the entire torso as well as assisting the ability of lower body muscles to perform in most positions and movements.  There is some evidence showing that exercises that improve the strength and stability of the core musculature prevent and heal low-back pain and can actually prevent knee injuries in athletes. In addition, training the core is  linked to increased balance and improved posture.

Many people focus on the six-pack or the rectus abdominis when training the core (think of the classic “crunch” exercise). The role of these muscles is to pull the sternum closer to the pubic bone (spinal flexion). Over-training these muscles can  lead to a postural imbalance, over-stretching of the low-back muscles and slouching! Not exactly the hot washboard abs you might be looking for. Balanced core training includes a wide variety of movements targeting all the core muscles (in the abdominal region the obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and psoas) including the muscles of the hips and back. This type of training allows the entire core to work in synthesis, creating a pillar of strength in movements that require stability, protecting the low back and increasing the function of the leg muscles.

In addition, a full core-training regimen should include dynamic balance training to strengthen small intrinsic core muscles that allow balance in motion, and flexibility training so that the core can be strong, but also supple.

It might be intimidating to create your own program with many different core exercises for a well-balanced workout in conjunction with the rest of your strength, flexibility and cardiovascular exercise, but keeping variety in mind is the key to making it work.

Trying a fitness or movement class like ballet, pilates or yoga can help you find new and fun ways to keep your core in shape. Or you can combine the three with some modern dance based cardio and try Jessica Howard’s Core Conditioning class…it starts tonight! 

CLICK to see the schedule and description of all of Dilettante Dance’s classes!

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