QUESTION: When we talk about core strengthening, what muscles are we referring to?
ANSWER: From a rehab, or therapeutic point of view, typically when we are talking about core strength or stability, we are referring to the four muscles that make up the “deep core stabilizers”, or “inner unit”. These are your diaphragm (your breathing muscle), your pelvic floor (muscles that prevent you from leaking urine), your transversus abdominus (or TA – your “corset” muscle), and your multifidus (little “guidewire” muscles in your spine). Together, these muscles control the position of your rib cage, spine and pelvis.
Typical core strengthening exercises will also target the more superficial muscles of the trunk: the spinal erectors, the iliopsoas (your primary hip flexor), the quadratus lumborum (your side benders), and the rest of your abdominals (your obliques and rectus abdominus, or six pack). Notice that I said six pack LAST! In order for your core to be functional and strong, ALL of these muscles – your deep layers and more superficial layers – need to be doing their part.