5 Benefits Of Core Exercises That Have Nothing To Do With Abs

Written by Erica Ziel

Published author, founder of Core Athletica® Inc., Knocked-Up Fitness®, creator of the Core Rehab Program, expert on Fascial Training, Core and Pre/Postnatal Exercise Specialist. Bachelor’s Degree in Health & Human Performance from Iowa State University, a Certified Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, Nutrition Coach and mama of three.

Erica has been featured in and contributed to many publications including; The Strength and Conditioning Journal, People.com, Oxygen Magazine, Fit Pregnancy, Pilates Style Magazine, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine LiveStrong.com.
Growing up on a family farm in the Midwest, she worked alongside her family on the farm - this environment instilled a strong family focus and an incredible work ethic she has carried with her, and is reflected today in her dedication to her family and her successful business.
Erica’s Functional Fascial Core method has proven to generate quicker and better results for her clients! She has been in the wellness space now for over 15 years.

Image by Melanie DeFazio / Stocksy

There's always been a huge focus on abs and a "flat stomach" when it comes to core strength, but incorporating core exercises into your lifestyle is more important to your overall health than you might suspect. This is because everything in your body is, quite literally, connected through your core.

The good news is that strengthening this part of your body isn't about doing 1,000 old-school crunches every day—and you don't need six-pack abs. It's about connecting through the deep layers of your core and focusing on performing movements safely and effectively. Using control and a smaller range of motion can help create space, stability, and strength throughout your entire body, which can have a variety of benefits from injury prevention to more effective breathing.

Here are five reasons to focus on your core that have nothing to do with abs:

1. Increased body awareness

While strengthening your deep core and tapping into those deeper fascial lines, you begin to create space through your body, improve your posture, and become aware and in tune with the way your body moves. The more you become aware of how you're using and engaging your core while you are sitting, standing, performing daily tasks, and simply holding yourself up throughout your day, the more power you have to improve the quality of your daily life!

2. Fewer aches and pains

If you've ever experienced back, neck, hip, or knee pain, you should know that many times the source of your pain can be associated with a weak or imbalanced core. Having a six-pack doesn't necessarily prevent those aches and pains, and, in fact, sometimes it can be part of the source. This is why it's crucial to be aware of not just if you are strengthening your core but how. While you do core exercises, keep in mind that your deep core includes everything from the base of your pelvis, including your pelvic floor, to the top of your torso. When connecting through your core, it is important to engage your abdominals the correct way for maximum benefit. This includes lightly activating your pelvic floor, zipping up your abdominals, wrapping around your ribs, and avoiding sucking your belly to your spine. The outdated technique of sucking your belly to your spine can cause the deep layers of your core to shut off and put unnecessary strain on your low back and pelvic floor.

Creating core strength, stability, and space in the body allows more energy to flow freely and provides more space around your nerves to avoid impingement. This also allows your body to naturally realign itself and create space in your spine to help lengthen your body and can be beneficial in decreasing pain for such things as herniated discs and pain caused by compression between vertebrae. Core stability exercises can also be great to aid in recovery from surgeries. By simply incorporating safe and effective core exercises into your daily routine, you can see drastic improvement in your aches and pains in a matter of days!

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3. Better pelvic floor function

A properly strengthened pelvic floor provides incredible health benefits—for both women and men—and should be involved in every core exercise. For women, strengthening the pelvic floor can eliminate and prevent incontinence and other pelvic floor dysfunctions. For men, a strong pelvic floor can be beneficial for battling pelvic pain and sexual dysfunction. For both women and men, a properly strengthened pelvic floor can help overall core strength, eliminate back and neck pain, improve posture, and increase sensation and satisfaction during sex! And who doesn't want that, right?

4. Injury prevention

Incorporating safe and effective core exercises into your daily routine can benefit your entire body. Many injuries happen because of weakness, misalignment, instability, and compression between bones. For example, many knee injuries are a result of what's going on in the pelvis. When you strengthen your core and create more balance throughout the pelvis, you can decrease and even eliminate knee pain and prevent those nasty knee injuries from ever happening. This goes for other parts of the body, too, because everything in your body is connected through your core!

5. More effective breathing

Effective breathing is something that is often overlooked and not given enough attention. When you breathe deeper and with intention, it can allow you to gain access to those deeper layers of your core muscles, including aiding in activation of your pelvic floor.

1. To begin, inhale deeply into your core and pelvis to prepare for your movement.

2. Exhale, connect lightly through the base of your pelvic floor zipping up through your torso, then begin your core exercise movement.

3. Inhale, keep a light connection through your abdominal wall while breathing out to the sides and back of your ribcage.

With each breath, try to connect a bit deeper, which may mean you need to slow down, decrease your range of motion, and lighten your core activation. Many times, in order to help you find a deeper breath sensation and activate those deeper core layers together, it's important to actually think about activating your core muscles half as strongly as you might normally do.

It takes time to find the deep layers of your core. Start incorporating the breathwork and lengthening techniques outlined above, and before you know it, you can begin to feel the connection in your deep core. Once you begin to feel the connection, you can start to see a drastic improvement in your posture, confidence, and overall quality of life.

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