True story: About 18 years ago, my friend -- who happened to be my workout buddy -- told me a story about his friend (we'll call him Tom) who miraculously avoided a head-on collision by a drunk driver. Tom was driving home from work in the late afternoon on a major interstate when the drunk driver merged onto the interstate from the wrong direction. The driver had mistaken the exit ramp for the merge ramp and both drivers were headed straight at each other at 70mph. Tom swerved to miss the drunk driver and in doing so, his truck skidded off the interstate. It tumbled down a hill, rolling about 5x before coming to a stop. Tom somehow managed to free himself from the truck and unbelievably, walked away relatively unscathed (except for a few cuts and bruises). According to Tom, the secret to his miraculous ability to walk away unscathed from his totaled car was his core routine, a routine he had been doing religiously every day for 10 years.
My friend told me that story 18 years ago...and I still think about it.
Tom's story is just one of the reasons why I think the core is the most important muscle group to work. But first, when we talk about the core, it's important to note that we don't simply mean those good lookin' 6-pack abs. The core is comprised of many muscles around the truck (including the glutes) that are responsible for stabilization and mobilization of the trunk.
A strong core is essential for....
1. Injury Prevention
If Tom's story wasn't enough to convince you....Have you ever picked up something heavy off the floor and then felt a twinge in your lower back? Or have you ever "thrown out your back"? (Boy, when I heard that expression as a kid, I had no idea what was going on!). We pick up heavy items all the time and every time we do, if we're not engaging our core, we're placing a TON of pressure on that lower back. The core acts as a stabilization unit -- it helps to stabilize the spine and in this case, that stabilization helps prevent injury to the lower back and spine.
2. Sports Performance
When I coached my soccer team, the players would always ask me, "How can I kick the ball farther?" to which I would respond, "Work the core!" A lot of power comes from the core -- any time we use our extremities in sport (which is like, every sport!) if our trunk and core are not stable, it will diminish our performance. Take golf, for example. If our core isn't strong, it will affect our swing -- and if our swing is off, even just slightly, the ball won't go where we want it to go. It's the same with baseball or football -- work the core, and you're working precision. Core is also important for improving times in running, cycling, and swimming. Again, it comes back to stabilization: If our core is stable, we will be much more efficient runners, cyclists, and swimmers.
3. Spine Health
The spine has many functions. It provides support for the head, neck, shoulders and pelvic girdles, which are vital for coordinating movements on a daily basis. The spine protects the central nervous system, which controls every single function in the human body. When the muscles of our core -- abs, obliques, back, glutes -- are strong, they act like a cushion around the spine. This strength and cushioning helps take the pressure off of the lumbar spine and thus, prevents degeneration.
Hopefully, this helps give you the "why" (why it's important to work the core) to get going today on core strengthening and flexibility. Be sure to follow me on social media for exercises and stretching routines that can give you the "how"!