What Muscles Make Up The Core?

Core and abdominal exercises have become synonymous in recent years. However, it is a group of muscles—not just your abs—that provide stability and support to the body. This group of muscles is referred to as "core muscles" or the foundation of the body. 

So what exactly is this mystery muscle group that seems to be tossed around in health clubs, pilates classes, or by healthcare professionals?

While the abdominals are a part of the core muscle group they alone can’t do the job of stabilizing the body. Your core muscles provide support and stability to the back, hips, pelvis, and shoulders. It is the body's foundation in movement and weight-bearing. To effectively exercise and strengthen this group, you need to understand the muscles that make up the core.

Core Muscle Group

The group of muscles involved in your core are:

Transverse Abdominis - the deepest muscle layer of the abdominals. It's a belt or brace that runs horizontal attaching to the spine, giving a narrow or slim appearance to your waist. Considered to be one of the most important muscles in spinal stabilization.

Internal and External Obliques - the intermediate layer of the abdominals. These muscles run oblique from the pelvis (or hips) to the spine and are most effective in trunk rotation.

Rectus Abdomins - the superficial layer of the abdominals (or better known as the six-pack). This muscle runs from the ribs to the pelvis and is responsible for trunk flexion (as in crunches). This muscle provides stability to the spine and pelvis when working with the other core muscles.

Multifudus - the group of muscles that run between the vertebra in the spine providing extension and rotation to each spinal segment.

Gluteus Maximus/Medius and Minimus - the hip muscles located on your buttock that also support and stabilize the hips and spine.

Pelvic Floor Muscles - the muscles that run from the pubic bone in the front to the tail bone in the back. They provide support for the organs in the pelvis. These are the internal muscles used to stop the flow of urination.

Scapular Stabilizers – also referred to as the rotator cuff, located on the back and around the shoulder blade. These muscles are important in shoulder movement, providing a smooth integration between the shoulder joint, shoulder blade and clavicle.

Core Strengthening Exercises

So you have overcome the obstacle of understanding this mystery muscle group. Now what? Well, you are equipped and ready to begin an exercise program to strengthen each group. Consider a comprehensive program that involves abdominals, back, hips, pelvis (kegel exercises) and shoulder strengthening.

Any exercise or strengthening program should include rest days to give your body time to heal/repair. Therefore, you want to set a goal of strengthen 2-3 times a week, 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets. The exercise should be challenging enough that you fatigue toward the end of the set. You can always add weights, resistance bands or change the surface to increase the challenge or progress the exercise.

Whatever your exercise routine, remember it is important to work all your core muscles. This will give you a slimmer, taller appearance and the health benefits of having a strong core.