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Core Muscles and Exercises for Core Muscle Groups

  • Published: 2010-06-02 (Revised/Updated 2016-04-13) : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Examines the core muscles in the belly area and mid and lower back includes core muscle exercises.

Main Document

From an anatomical perspective, the term, "core," refers to a person's body with the exclusion of their legs and arms in general definitions.

A person's functional movements are greatly dependent upon their core. People who lack core development may experience a predisposition to injury. The major muscles of a person's core reside in their belly area and in their mid and lower back, to include their hips, neck, and shoulders.

The major muscles involved include the pelvic floor muscles, multifidus, transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae - particularly the longissimus thoracis, as well as the diaphragm. The minor core muscles involved include the glueteus maximus, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius. The function of the core is to stabilize the person's thorax and pelvis during dynamic movement, as well as to provide internal pressure in order to expel substances.

The importance of core muscles is reflected through actions such as the, 'Valsalva maneuver,' where a person's thorax tightens when they hold their breath. The maneuver is usually an involuntary one which may be induced by linking one's hands together in front of the chest, then pulling against the hands while letting go. The maneuver helps in lifting, pushing, birthing, and excretion. Continence is another reason core muscle groups are important. The muscles provide a person with the ability to withhold bowel movements and urinary stress incontinence. Women use their core muscle groups during labor and delivery.

Core muscles are commonly assumed to begin the majority of full-body functional movement, to include most sports. Additionally, the core determines in large part a person's posture. Overall, a person's anatomy is built to take force upon their bones and direct autonomic force through a number of their joints, in the direction they desire. A person's core muscles align their spine, ribs, and pelvis to resist a particular force - whether that force is static or dynamic.

Dynamic Core Function Example

The nature of dynamic movement is something that must be taken into account with the person's skeletal structure as well. It must be considered in addition to the force of external resistance, consequently incorporating a greatly different complex of the person's joints and muscles, differing from static core function. Due to functional design, during the performance of dynamic movement there is greater dependence on core muscle groups than simply skeletal rigidity, as is used in static core purposes. Through the incorporation of movement, the bones in a person's body have to absorb resistance in a fluid manner. The person's ligaments, tendons, and muscles intervene and take on various responsibilities. The responsibilities involve postural reactions to changes in speed, power, and motion.

An example of dynamic core function might involve a person attempting to use a wheelchair up a hill. The person's body must resist gravity while moving in a direction, balancing itself on uneven ground. The person must force their body to align their bones in a way which balances their body while at the same time achieving momentum through pushing against the ground. At the start it might seem that the person's arms are the main initiators of action, yet without balance the person's arms are merely a portion of what is needed to achieve action. The main initiator of the action the person is taking is their core muscle groups.

Should the hill be slippery, the person using the wheelchair may have to react and catch themselves in order to maintain their sense of balance. The performance of this function demonstrates how quickly their muscles have the ability to react to the situation; something that measures both their speed and quickness. People who can react quickly in such a situation, yet find themselves unable to recruit their muscles rapidly enough, will find themselves aware they have the potential to fall, yet be unable to do anything about it. People who cannot react rapidly enough or appropriately, but can use their muscles quickly, may be jerky and can over-react. If the person has reacted with adequate time and speed, they must also have the power to accept the weight of their own body; slipping reduces the load on their muscles, for however a short of period. The muscle's ability to have power and ensure that the immediate load can be taken by the person's muscles can find them able to restore their sense of balance and keep from tipping over or falling.

Torso Exercises for Your Abs, Lower and Upper Back

Crunches: Simply by lifting your shoulders off of the floor you are flexing your abdominal muscles. You may also flex your abs by lifting your hips off of the floor, also referred to as a, 'reverse crunch,' or you may flex your abs by performing seated crunches. Seated crunches require you to bend forward a few inches and flex your stomach muscles for ten seconds. Repeat this ten times and you will feel the results. You may also practice rolling over on your back from your stomach ten times without stopping, it is a great way to work your torso if you have a difficult time with crunches.

Lower Back Exercises: While lying on your stomach, lift your legs off of the floor; it works your lower back, rump, and hamstrings. To do this while sitting down requires a flex and stretch combination. Bend forward in your chair, taking your chest to your knees, then use your lower back muscles to sit upright again.

Upper Back Exercises: While lying on your stomach in a down pushup position, lift your hands off of the floor instead of pushing the floor. Doing so will strengthen your upper back muscles that oppose your chest muscles. Lift your feet and knees off of the floor and your hamstrings, lower back, and rear end will flex and strengthen. Lift your chest slightly off of the floor and wave your arms from your sides to over your head for thirty seconds. Lift your feet and knees off the floor and your lower back, hamstrings, and rear end will flex and strengthen.

Lower Body Exercises: For persons who have not experienced a spinal cord injury or an amputated limb, you may work your leg muscles by doing leg extensions or leg curls with ankle weights. You may also do one-legged squats if you can hold onto something for balance.


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