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Don’t Ignore the Core

Most people who work out are looking for those chiseled pecs or bulging biceps. As pleasing as it is for them to achieve that goal, many gym rats completely forget about training the most important muscles: The Core. 
Once your eyes glanced over the words “The Core”, you probably thought I train my abs at least once a week so I’m doing just fine, right? Not so much. Although your abdominal workout will result in a partially strengthened core, there is more to it than just doing crunches or sets on an ab machine.
Obviously everyone wants that shredded six-pack for beach season, but training your core isn’t just beneficial for looks.  Working your core aids in spinal stability as well as helping with balance. Strengthening the core is also important for athletics, and improving any postural deviations that can occur due to lack of strength and stability related to the core.  
The core is made up of three layers: an outer, inner, and middle layer. The outer layer is essentially what is getting worked when you do crunches or sit-ups.  It is made up of muscles called the rectus abdominis (which is where your six-pack comes from), serratus anterior, and the external oblique. The rectus abdominis and external oblique act as trunk flexors, meaning they are put to work when you go from a lying movement to sitting up (like a crunch).  The external oblique also aids in side bending and trunk rotation.  The serratus anterior, which is often overlooked when training the core, lies just below the chest muscle. This muscle will help with elevation of the arm as well as aiding in lifting things over the head.  The middle layer of the core consists of the internal oblique.  Like the external oblique, this muscle aids in rotation and flexion of the trunk to the same side meaning as the muscles on the left side contract, the body is flexing or rotating to the left.  Arguably the most beneficial layer of the core, the innermost layer contains the transverse abdominis.  This muscle wraps around the entire core and acts as sort of a corset, if you will. Training this muscle not only results in core stabilization, but it makes you look thinner as well! Who doesn’t want to look thinner? You can find the anatomy of these muscles here.
Not only does your core involve the front side of your body, but the back side as well. However, the back side is not as complex as the front. The main core muscle on the back side of the body is the erector spinae which is located in your lower back. Whenever you stand back up from a bent over position or bend backwards, your erector spinae is doing the work.  Erector spinae also plays a role in lateral flexion, which is bending to the side. The final muscle of the core is the multifidus.  This lies below the erector spinae and aids in extension and rotation of the spine.  
Now that you understand the benefits of working the core, and the anatomy, it’s time to get to work.  There are a multitude of workouts you can do to strengthen your core muscles. Try the following core strengthening workouts at your next visit to The Fitness Center
  • Rectus Abdominis: Crunches, Stability Ball Crunches, and Planks 
  • External and Internal Obliques: Oblique Crunches, Side Planks, and Standing Side Bends
  • Transverse Abdominis: Scissor Kicks, Plank
  • Erector Spinae and Multifidus: Back Extensions, Good Mornings 
  • Serratus Anterior: Shoulder Raises, Dumbbell Pullover
It is important to note that all exercises, not just for the core, should be done with a contracted core. To do this, you essentially flex your abs and try and pull your belly button to your spine. 
do not ignore the core core
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