What Exactly Is the Core?

When people talk about the core, they often think of just your abdominals.  It is not that simple.  The muscles of the core can be divided into three categories, the local stabilization system, global stabilization system, and movement system.

The local stabilization system is made up of muscles that attach directly to the spine.  They work together to achieve stability between vertebrae or segments of your trunk.  An example would be the transverse abdominus.

The global stabilization system is made of muscles that attach the spine to the pelvis. They work together to help transfer loads from upper extremities to lower extremities and provide stability between the pelvis and spine. An example of a muscle in this category is the external and internal obliques.

The movement system is made up of muscles that attach your extremities to your spine and or pelvis.  They are responsible for producing force during dynamic activities.  A muscle in this group is latissimus dorsi, or lats for short.

All three of these systems of muscles must work together to achieve stabilization.  When we refer to stabilization, we are talking about your body’s ability to distribute weight, absorb force, and transfer force efficiently.  In other words, all movements stem from the core and any inefficiency in these muscles lead to poor balance, force production, and increase your risk of injury.  The best way to train the core is with movement patterns.  Machines at the gym may be great for improving strength in isolated muscles, but they don’t load the core as well as movement based exercise.  Machines neglect to train how we move in everyday life.


rk, Micheal, Scott Lucett, and Donald T. Kirkendall. NASM’s Essentials of Sports Performance Training. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. Print.

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