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What is the Core?

While we hear about the importance of core strengthening, I like to think about it as core conditioning. By conditioning I mean correcting muscle imbalances; strengthening the weak areas, creating flexibility and increased range of motion in tight areas; balancing strength and mobility.

Many people think that the core refers solely to the abdominal muscles, the ripped six-pack or the rectus abdominis to be exact. While the rectus abdominis is included in the definition, it is only a small part. The core is actually the entire torso; front, back, sides, glutes, pelvis, chest and shoulders. It is many different muscles working together to stabilize the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle to create a solid base of support. This stable base distributes the stresses of weight bearing and protects the spine. It is also our power generator and enables us to stand upright, control movement, transfer energy, shift our weight and move in any direction.

Our repeated daily activities, posture positions and sports create imbalances by over-using, over-strengthening and stiffening some muscles while actually weakening others. These areas become weak links for potential injury. So much lower back pain is a product of imbalances in the core.

While specific core exercises should vary from person to person depending upon imbalances and needs, it is always important to remember that it is about conditioning. Balance stretching and strengthening, stability and mobility.

Stay on the path!

Carol Porter is a personal trainer and fitness guide in Ashland, Oregon. She is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, exercise and performance-training specialist, and yoga teacher. Her sports interests are cycling, running, yoga, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and cross country skiing.  You can reach Carol at

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