Why a strong Core can Help to Prevent Injuries
Strengthening your core muscles is key to improving your overall strength and fitness, but did you know that in building a stronger core, you’re also helping to guard yourself against injuries? Here’s how…
What is your core?
If you think your core muscles refer to your abs alone, think again! In fact, your core muscles comprise all the muscles that make up the trunk of your body, which include your abs, yes, but also your obliques (sides), quadrates lumborum (lower back), erector spinae and multifidus (back), pelvic floor, glutes (backside) and even your diaphragm – the thin muscle that separates your chest from your abdomen, and that assists with breathing.
Why are your core muscles important?
It’s clear, then, that your core muscles play a far bigger role than simply looking good by creating the ‘six pack’ effect! They work together to help with movement, acting as a bridge between your upper and lower body. Crucially for injury prevention, your core muscles are your body’s main stabilising muscles and, when strong, they form a natural ‘girdle’ around your trunk, which supports and protects your lumbar spine and helps to hold you in the correct alignment.
3 ways your core can protect against injuries
Postural injuries and pain
When your core muscles are weak, your lumbar spine is more prone to slumping, and this can place strain on your spine, as well as increasing the pressure between the vertebrae. By working to strengthen your core muscles, with a strength and conditioning programme that includes exercises such as planks, glute bridges, leg raises and mountain climbers, your spine will remain properly aligned and supported, thus reducing your chance of experiencing pain and postural issues.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, such as a fall or a car accident, your core muscles kick into action, helping to brace against impact and therefore protecting your spine. If your core muscles are weak when the accident occurs, your body will rely on other, more passive structures for this support, such as your ligaments, which can cause tears. A strong core, however, can help to lessen the damage when the body is placed under this kind of stress.
If you’re an active person, a strong core will help to keep you stable for activities such as running, and will also help to ward off fatigue, alongside helping to guard against injuries resulting from postural imbalances.
How to engage your core
For your core to protect you against injury, you need to be able to effectively engage the core muscles. One way of doing this is to practise abdominal bracing. This means creating rigidity around your trunk by contracting all your core muscles. To do this, tighten all the muscles around your midsection (it’s the action you might make if someone was about to punch you in the stomach). Performing abdominal bracing while doing core exercises will see you perform the moves more effectively, but it’s also a great idea to engage your core in this way while doing any sort of heaving lifting, to help protect your spine.