"Tighten your core" "Strengthen your core" - you hear the advice all the time. But what exactly is Core? I'm here to expand the realm of core beyond crunches. Interested? O.K., then here we go!
Core is defined as the muscles of your deep muscular corset: Transverse abdominus (deepest ab muscle), diaphragm (a muscle that assists in breathing), multifidus (deep back muscle along spine), and pelvic floor (helps to prevent urine flow). (Massitti)
But core is so much more: Core has the ability to tune through full range of motion body movements by way of our fascial system. (Dalcourt) Movement patterns are the true generator of a core contraction.
I define core like an onion; there are many layers of core, the deepest layers comprise the foundation, while the outer layers encompass the dynamic features. All layers bind and weave together to work off each other. NOT just the abs, but the hips and back as well. Core strength is the ability to buttress and dissociate your hips from your spine.
Low back pain is often associated with a weak core. Ab muscles deactivate with low back pain. This does NOT mean your back is weak and needs strengthening. In many cases the low back is already over worked and needs support from surrounding muscles. (McGill)
Here's the crunch: Crunches are NOT functional. They do not work to support the lower back, instead are intended to flex the spine. Although we are meant to forward flex the spine, it has no life time warranty. Use your spinal bends in sport and every day life, don't use them up in the gym. (McGill)
A strong core is trained from the inside out: Maintain tight joints with a mobile exterior. (Fox)