Core Strength

Last Updated: October 17, 2023

Featured Image

Table of Contents

Core strength refers to the dynamic and static strength of the central portion of the body. Core strength is essential to functioning well in everyday life, injury prevention, and athletic performance.

What is the Core?

The core is anatomically referred to as the axial part of the body. The core comprises a group of muscles that provide stability, support, and movement of the whole body.

Core strength is necessary for all functional movements; weak core muscles or lack of core musculature development can lead to injury or pain in other body areas. 

The primary muscle group of the core includes the abdomen and mid and lower back, and then peripherally, the core also consists of the hips, pelvic girdle, shoulders, and neck. 

Core Anatomy

Many think of the core as the traditional “six-pack muscles,” yet many important muscles comprise the core anatomy.

The major muscles of the core include the pelvic floor muscles, the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae muscles, specifically the longissimus thoracis, multifidus, and diaphragm.

Other core muscles include the lumbar muscles surrounding the lumbar spine, quadratus lumborum, deep rotators, illio psoas, cervical muscles, rectus capitus anterior and lateralis, and longus coli.

The secondary core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, gluteus maximus, pelvic girdle muscles, hamstring muscles, piriformis, hip adductors and abductors, and hip flexors. 

Functions of the Core Muscles

The core performs many different vital functions. The core extends from the diaphragm to the pelvis; it forms a muscular 360-degree band around the body.

When performing dynamic movements, the core stabilizes the thorax and pelvis and provides internal pressure to expel substances such as vomit, feces, and carbon-filled air.


Continence is the ability to resist or hold in bowel movements and urination. 

Weak deep core muscles can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, leading to an inability to control bowel movements or urination. 


The core muscles are essential in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. The transversus abdominis especially plays a critical role in labor and delivery.   

Valsalva Maneuver 

The Valsalva maneuver is a performance of forced expiration against a closed glottis that assists in lifting, pushing excretion, and birth. 

The Valsalva maneuver occurs by elevating intrathoracic pressure. This maneuver involves activating core muscles, causing the thorax to tighten while holding the breath.

Anatomical Posture and Support  

The core assists in full-body functional movements, especially while performing physical activity and participating in sports. 

The core also plays an essential role in maintaining good posture. The body can handle force from various angles and positions, but strong abdominal muscles are crucial.

They maintain proper alignment of the spine, ribs, pelvis, and, indirectly, the limbs. This alignment is vital for resisting both static and dynamic forces.

Static Core Function

Static core function is the ability of the body to maintain an aligned position under a fixed or unchanging force.

This includes isometric movements such as a plank where the body is resisting the force of gravity. 

The core maintains the axial skeleton's alignment (the skull, spine, and tailbone) and keeps the peripheral elements static. 

Dynamic Core Function 

Dynamic movement requires activation of different muscles and joints than when a person is in a static position due to the body's structure and external forces.

This body relies on the core during dynamic movement, as the body is required to resist changing forces in all the body’s planes of motion. 

The dynamic core function comes into play during functional movements, daily activities, and sports. For instance, when walking up a slope, the body must counteract gravity while maintaining movement and balance.

Maintaining balance requires both core stability and core strength. The core also serves as the driving force of the body, as the legs cannot function properly without the stability and balance provided by the core.

The Importance of a Strong Core

The core is crucial in maintaining the ideal posture to onload joints and create smooth and efficient body movements. 

For every person, having a strong core helps one perform everyday activities efficiently, such as:

  • playing with children
  • standing up or sitting on a chair
  • performing household chores

For athletes, a strong core ensures that movements are efficient, preventing injury and improving performance. Core strength can help increase resiliency and aid in rehab from injuries.

A strong core improves the stability and strength of the lower and upper body; it can also help suspend bones and other structures, allowing them to move and function better.

Core strength also helps prevent certain types of incontinence and helps with longevity and overall maintenance of the musculoskeletal system.  

The Signs of a Weak Core

As a person ages, becomes sedentary, or if they over-train, they can experience degenerative changes often occurring in the spine. 

Bones and cartilage are subjected to significant wear and tear throughout life. However, strengthening the core with proper exercises often prevents or mitigates these changes. 

An imbalanced or weak core can lead to various complications and symptoms, such as:

  • Poor balance and mobility challenges
  • Difficulty standing up and sitting down
  • Knee pain
  • Neck and back pain
  • Bad posture

Exercises to Strengthen Abdominal Muscles

Strengthening the core can be a simple way for someone to improve their ability to carry out daily physical tasks, recover from injuries, and reduce aches and pains associated with aging.

Core strength exercises are the best way to increase muscular strength and control.

Begin with simpler core exercises like planks, squats, wall presses, dead bugs, crunches, sit-ups, bent or single-leg leg lowers, and hip bridges. Increasing the challenge and complexity of movements is an effective way to enhance core strength as one progresses.

More complex exercises include a Turkish get-up, medicine ball slam, bird dog, weighted squats and deadlifts, a pallof press, farmer carries, or rotational ball slams. 

Completing core strengthening exercises with free weights or on unstable surfaces, such as Bosu and stability balls, will also increase the difficulty. 

Though there are no “best core exercises,” a good core workout includes all the muscle groups, the trunk, the hips, and the pelvis, and pull body movements that target the upper body, legs, and glutes. It also includes static and dynamic core stability exercises.  


The plank is a common core strength exercise where one holds the body in an isometric position.

The starting position of the plank is in a push-up position on the hands or with a lowered upper body with forearms on the ground. 

Shoulders should be stacked over the elbows (and wrists if in push-up position), feet hip-width apart. 

Keeping a neutral spine, with the back flat, ensuring the core is engaged, keeping the rib cage tucked, and multiple muscles such as the quads and glutes engaged.

A plank can be modified by keeping the knees on the floor. 

Crunches and Sit-ups 

To perform a crunch, lay on the back with the knee bent and feet flat on the floor, lift the shoulders from the ground, curling the rectus abdominis muscles. 

The lower back should remain in contact with the ground. Like a crunch, the sit-up is the same setup but a full sit-up, and the low back will come off the floor. 

Leg Raises 

To perform leg raises, lay on the back with legs straight, hovering above the ground and arms by side. Alternate lifting one leg or both legs and slowly lower. 

Remember to keep the core engaged, the rib cage tucked, and the lower back in contact with the ground. 

Bird Dog

To perform the bird dog, start on all fours in a quadruped position, hands, and knees on the ground at shoulder width. 

Keeping the spine in a neutral position, lift the opposite arm and opposite leg to a horizontal position simultaneously, repeat by alternating sides. 

The right arm lifts at the same time as the left leg, and the left arm then lifts at the same time as the right leg. Ensure to keep the rib tucked and leg and upper body muscles engaged.  


Standing with feet hip-width apart, lower down so knees track over the toes and hips sink down and back till the thigh is parallel to the floor.

Remember to keep the chest high and think about creating force through the legs and hips and keeping the core engaged. 

Hip Bridge 

Laying on the back with knees bent and feet on the floor, press into the ground, lifting the pelvis off the ground. 

Ensure the knees are stacked over the hips, and the pelvis is “tucked” and properly aligned.

How to Choose the Right Core Exercises?

Although there are no universally recognized "best core exercises," an effective core program prioritizes exercises that individuals can perform with proper form and muscle activation. 

This approach is significantly more effective than engaging in core exercises through mindless repetition.

Learning to do proper abdominal bracing and activating the correct muscles necessitates time, practice, and expert guidance. It involves the individual being attuned to their body's movements and breath patterns.

Exploring various core training activities and approaches might be necessary to identify the most suitable option. 

Once one learns how to engage their core correctly, the core can easily be activated with everyday activities such as walking, driving, sitting, running, and hiking. 

Many resources can help one to learn how to engage the core correctly: 

Developing a stronger core takes time and practice, but the benefits to day-to-day living and longevity are vast and apparent.     


What Is the Core, and How Do I Strengthen It? 

Understanding and improving core strength - Harvard Health

Core (anatomy) - Wikipedia 

Valsalva Maneuver - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf

Understanding and improving core strength - Harvard Health 

How to add core exercises to your workout routine - Harvard Health


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.