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Personal trainer tips: The 'Core' Myth

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to the core, specifically what it is and what it does. Time and again you will hear personal trainers saying ‘engage your core’ or ‘turn your core on’ but do we actually know what this means?

The core is probably one of the most misrepresented muscle groups in the human body. The core is anatomically classed as your trunk, minus the arms and legs. So it encompasses all of your muscles on the front, back and sides of your trunk. It is not just the abdominals as often thought; it is not just a ‘six pack’.

Mostly, when we are told to ‘engage our core’, the personal trainer is prompting you to roll your pelvis under by engaging your abdominals and gluteus muscles, consequently lowering the load placed on your lower back, thus protecting you from injury and place you in a stronger, more stable and beneficial position.

Our deep core muscles are stabilisers; whilst we are moving around day to day and during exercise, these muscles hold our posture in its optimal stature. However, these muscles can often get lazy and let our mobiliser muscles take over - these are the muscles that are used for big movements such as knee flexion when walking, or hip extension when standing up. When your stabiliser muscles become lazy, the mobiliser muscles not only have to complete the movement, but they also have to try and hold our body in shape. This can lead to muscle tightness, postural imbalances, injury and the potential for other issues.

It is imperative that we activate our core muscles throughout the day as well as during exercise to protect our body and optimise its function. A simple strengthening programme can be put together in order to remind the muscles to work in the correct manner. Considering what a large muscle group the core is and the role it plays in regards to exercise, you don’t have to do traditional core exercises to work it. You use your core in every single movement you do: whether it is tucking your hips under to provide a strong foundation for an overhead press, engaging your obliques when doing transverse kettlebell swings, or staying upright when carrying heavy shopping bags. Remember, we do have lazy muscles, so actively engaging them may be necessary.

One of the core’s main responsibilities is to provide functional stability when static and during movement. Additionally, it plays an integral role in proprioception, balance and supports the spine. The more we are aware of our body position and using our core to control it, the more developed and efficient it will become. Therefore, we should incorporate very basic core activation exercises into our daily routines in order to use it as the stabiliser it is.

To summarise, the core is an extremely large muscle group that is utilised in every single thing we do. We use it all the time, therefore we need to look after it!

For more expert advice, you can get in touch with our expert personal trainers in Bristol by calling 0117 403 7600, or email

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