What Are The Core Muscles Of The Body?
The core is often thought of as the same thing as our abs, but is this all there is to our core? Find out what the core muscles of the body really are in this post!
What do we mean when we say 'the core'?
When discussing the ‘core’ muscles, we refer to the muscles in our body responsible for maintaining stability in the spine and pelvis.
Achieving stability involves the work of various muscles beyond just the abs. Multiple muscle groups must engage to ensure stability of your torso. This stability is important because it ensures that you don’t fall over when you move your body or when there is an external force.
Think about when you are going around a turn fast in a car. Either your body gets thrown to one side or, you activate your core to stop yourself from being thrown to the side.
Activation of the core muscles is also essential when you move your arms and legs. Think about when you go to kick a ball. The muscles of your legs propel the ball but if your core didn’t activate, you would just fall over after kicking it.
This is why the core is so important.
Consider the core as the central point of our body, crucial for optimal function. For the body to move efficiently, stability is equally vital, as shown in the example of kicking a ball.
This is why working on your core is more complex than simply focusing on ab exercises. True core work involves addressing different aspects of this central support system.
4 Major Core Muscle Stabilizers
Depending on the source or article you consult, you’ll find various muscles that are considered part of the ‘core.’ While I’m not suggesting that these four are the sole core muscles, they play a crucial role in maintaining stability so I wanted to highlight them for you here.
1. The Transverse Abdominis
While other abdominal muscles contribute to the core, the transverse abdominis is the abdominal muscle that’s crucial for maintaining spinal stability. It’s so important that this is the muscle that is often the focus when mentioning the ‘core.’
The transverse abdominis is your deepest abdominal muscle. It lies beneath both the rectus abdominis (commonly known as the “six-pack muscle”) and the obliques (the sides of your abs).
Properly engaging the transverse abdominis is a crucial step in enhancing abdominal strength, a step that unfortunately many people overlook.
Strengthening this muscle first is essential before targeting the more visible six-pack muscles. Stability is our foundation so it should not be overlooked!
Some common exercises that work the transverse abdominis include planks and dead bugs.
2. The Multifidus
Frequently, people focus on training the front part of the core, where the abdominals are situated, and they overlook the importance of the back part of the core. Both the muscles in the front and back of the spine are essential in ensuring spinal stability.
So the transverse abdominis is the deep muscle in the front of your core, and the multifidus is the deep muscle in the back of your core.
During training, it’s important to remember to strengthen the muscles of your back, especially your lower back, in addition to the abdominals.
Remember, both the front and back muscles collectively contribute to the core’s strength and stability.
A great exercise for strengthening the multifidus is reverse planks.
3. The Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor muscles form the base of the core.
You can think of the pelvic floor muscles as a kind of “sling.” This sling of muscles extends from the pubic bone (the front of your pelvis) to the coccyx (also known as your tailbone).
The pelvic floor plays an important role in maintaining stability of both the pelvis and the spine. This is because it attaches the pelvis to the spine. (The coccyx is the lowest part of your spine.)
To learn more about the pelvic floor muscles, read this post here: What Is The Pelvic Floor?
Kegel exercises are a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. I have a post about kegels on the blog where I teach you common mistakes to avoid. If you’re interested, check it out here: Kegel Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make
4. The Diaphragm
The diaphragm is a muscle that is often overlooked in its connection to the core.
People probably forget about the diaphragm because the diaphragm muscle is the primary muscle responsible for breathing.
However, the location of this muscle helps us to understand its role in helping with stability of the lumbar spine, the lower region of your back. The diaphragm muscle attaches to the lower part of your sternum, underneath your lower ribs, AND to the upper lumbar vertebrae.
Unfortunately, some individuals, perhaps many, fail to utilize their diaphragm as the primary muscle for breathing, even though this is supposed to be its job!
I already wrote an entire post on this topic so for more information on the diaphragm muscle, click here: Breathe The Right Way With Diaphragmatic Breathing
Additional Core Muscles
The four core muscles highlighted above play a crucial role in providing stability for the spine and pelvic.
You have the transverse abdominis in the front, the multifidus in the back, the pelvic floor at the base, and the diaphragm at the top. Comprehension of these four muscles gives you a strong foundation for understanding the core.
In addition to these four muscles, there are other muscles that are often considered to be part of the core. These include the rectus abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, and quadratus lumborum. These muscles contribute to movement of your torso. At times, hip muscles are also considered to be part of the core.
I know that the human body can seem complex and I hope that through posts like these, you find it easier to understand.
However, the primary takeaway from this post is simply recognizing that the core extends beyond just the abdominal muscles. If you remember that, I’m happy 🙂
Keep learning about your body!
Read This Next: What Are The Different Parts Of The Glutes?
Core muscles. (n.d.). Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Core_Muscles
Hsu, S.-L., Oda, H., Shirahata, S., Watanabe, M., & Sasaki, M. (2018). Effects of core strength training on core stability. J Phys Ther Sci. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.30.1014
Kocjan, J., Gzik-Zroska, B., Nowakowska, K., Burkacki, M., Suchoń, S., Michnik, R., Czyżewski, D., & Adamek, M. (2018). Impact of diaphragm function parameters on balance maintenance. PLoS One. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208697
Oliva-Lozano, J., & Muyor, J. (2020). Core Muscle Activity during Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124306