By Bri Groves, Swimming World Intern.
Your core encompasses the muscles at the center of your body. Contrary to the common preconception, the core is not synonymous for abs. The core actually refers to twenty-nine pairs of muscles including the abdomen, hips, back, and chest. The core also includes muscles in the diaphragm, pelvic floor, hips, and gluteal muscles. Having a strong core not only boosts athletic performance, it is also a vital component to a healthy lifestyle. Still not convinced? Check out these amazing incentives to complete your daily core workout:
Balance & Stability
One of the primary benefits of strengthening your core is better balance and stability. Your core plays an integral role in connecting your spine and pelvis. Simple actions like walking, sitting, and standing as well as movements in the pool, like kicking and flip turns, activate the core. If your core muscles are functioning properly, they should keep your spine erect and your hip bones in a neutral position, alleviating unnecessary pressure and strain on these areas of the body. Not only does the core lessen impact, because the core makes up the center of your body and encompasses the spinal column, every movement passes through it. A strong core facilitates coordination of muscles to stabilize and support your body, while a weak core may lead to frequent aches and pains.
Your core is responsible for connecting the muscles and bones of your lower body to those of your upper body. By increasing the number of activated muscle groups, your core not only strengthens more muscles, it also elevates the amount of power your body may produce. For swimmers, an activated core means you can move through the water more effectively with less effort. Your core facilitates the long axis rotation necessary for an effective freestyle and backstroke and it enables the full body undulation required for breaststroke and butterfly. A connected core ensures that muscle movements are complementary and synchronous as opposed to interfering.
Another key outcome of core strength is injury prevention. Your core muscles keep your body aligned, minimizing strain on your muscles and joints. Your core is like a shock-absorber. It protects your joints during high impact motions like turns and dryland activities such as running and jumping. A tight core braces your body for impact, expands the area over which force is exerted, and prevents injury by reducing direct stress on specific areas of the body.
A strong core promotes good posture. Healthy core muscles help keep your body upright and prevent slouching. You can often judge a person’s core strength by their streamline. It takes a strong core to maintain a flat back and travel straight off of every wall. Arched or slouched positions place added stress on the back and spinal cord to compensate for inadequate or lazy muscle groups. Having good posture not only helps you survive long sitting or standing sessions without experiencing back pain, it also promotes good habits in the pool.
Everyday motions like bending, lifting, twisting, carrying, and especially swimming are acts that engage, or pass through, the core. While all of these maneuvers can be completed with minimal core activation, utilization of core muscles may decrease the physical strain and improve the quality of these motions. Swimmers who continually use their core muscles in the pool may improve their posture, mobility, strength, stability, and reduce their risk of injury in and out of the pool. With all these benefits, why not spend a couple extra minutes using your core?
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.