Many of us dream of strong abdominals. Not just for the way they look, but also because having a strong core helps you do virtually anything. Core strength can also reduce your risk of injury and improve athletic performance. Here’s why.

Really, what is a core?

Your core consists of your back muscles, glutes, abdominal muscles, hip muscles, and the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles are similar to a sling that supports the bladder, rectum and other organs that sit in the pelvis. If any of these areas are weak, compensation and dysfunction may occur.

How does a strong core prevent injury?

Having a strong core allows you to maintain proper form, enhances lumbar stability, and results in a better foundation for doing virtually any activity. A strong core can help you shovel snow, run, kick, put away dishes and pick up your child (to name a few). A weak core diminishes athletic performance and increases your risk of injury.

Consider runners. A common misconception is that running causes knee injuries. The truth is that a weak core can actually be the cause of knee pain and injury. If the core is weak, balance and proper form suffers, which can cause deterioration of the cartilage on the undersurface of the patella (kneecap). If the core is strengthened, the body should maintain proper position while running, which reduces the pressure placed on the knees and hips.

How can I strengthen my core?

There are a variety of exercises that can be easily incorporated into your daily regimen. Isolated exercises, such as a plank cause muscle activation throughout the core. Other exercises that help build core strength include sit-ups, side planks, and supine bridge.

Physical therapy addresses weakness by improving strength, flexibility, and mobility, which helps reduce injury. Physical therapy also provides detailed education on proper posture and ergonomics to help preserve the spine and prevent future injury.

If you are concerned about core strength and want to take steps to prevent an injury, schedule an evaluation with one of our physical therapists.