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The core muscles (abdominals and lower back) form the foundation for almost all athletic movements. By providing a stable platform for the shoulders, arms, hips and legs, the core is involved in everything from throwing a ball to making a tackle to shooting a puck to running. Since your arms and legs can only be as strong as your core permits, focus on your core to develop full-body strength.
The secret to developing the complete core is targeting its four primary muscle groups. The core is only as strong as its weakest link, so instead of focusing on only one type of movement, split your ab workout into four sections for a stable core and full-body strength.
Four Major Core Muscles Groups
1. Rectus Abdominis
These are the "six-pack" muscles that extend down the abdomen. They are responsible for flexing the spinal column.
Exercise Example: Crunches, V-Ups
2. Erector Spinae
This is the bundle of muscles and tendons that extend throughout the back along the spinal column. These muscles initiate trunk extension.
Exercise Example: Supermans
3. Internal and External Obliques
Obliques run diagonally across the abdomen and perpendicular to the rectus abdominis and erector spinae. The obliques contribute to trunk flexion and depression of the abdomen, but they are primarily responsible for trunk rotation and lateral flexion.
Exercise Example: Side Bends or Seated Twists (Russian Twists)
4. Transverse Abdominis
The transversus abdominis is a group of deep abdominal muscles running horizontally beneath the rectus abdominis. Although these muscles aren’t involved in movement, they are important for breathing as well as pelvic and spinal stability.
Exercise Example: Planks or Six-Inch Leg Raises With Hold
Maximize your workout’s effectiveness by completing 50 repetitions for each of the major core muscle groups for a total of 200 core movements.
Grant Geib is currently a strength and conditioning coaching assistant at the University of Tennessee. Previously, he worked as a performance coach at the Parisi Speed School. In 2009, he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Ohio Wesleyan, where played football and received the Wally Cross Award for athletic and academic excellence. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in kinesiology in 2011.