Abdominal muscles are perhaps the most popular target of toning and strengthening exercises today, yet they are rarely considered in the context of the whole body. Abs do not stand alone; they are part of a complex group of muscles that is meant to work together. If they do not — if part of the group is overdeveloped and the other part, underdeveloped — then the whole body suffers.
Abs Vs. Core
The difference is between abdominal muscles and core muscles. The core consists of:
• Hip Rotators (Flexors)
• Pelvic Muscles
• Lower Back Muscles
A disproportionately-developed abdominal region can lead to weak low back muscles. As the stronger set, the abs will do work that is meant to be done in conjunction with the back muscles, such as maintaining an upright position. Weak muscles in the back do not properly support the spine, and this could result in misalignment.
Conversely, weak abdominal muscles can overtax the muscles of the lower back and hip rotators (flexors), giving it the brunt of the work. This can lead to severe back strain. The result of disproportionate muscle taxation is muscle imbalance.
Posture and the Core
The human body was not designed to sit in a chair for hours a day. However, that is what the modern lifestyle dictates for many of us. Desk jobs, classrooms and vehicles ensnare our time in sitting.
Those who sit for long periods of time are more likely to develop chronic back pain. Most people do not engage their cores while sitting, which leaves the lower back muscles to do all the work of countering gravity and holding up the spine. This generally leads to lower back pain, tilted pelvis and spine curvature.
One of the best things you can do to prevent the negative effects of sitting is to develop an exercise plan focusing on the core muscle group. This plan will involve more than crunches or sit-ups, since these only focus on abdominal muscles. Bridge and plank exercises will help to round out your routine. See Core Strength Workout for a slideshow of exercises for your core with instructions.
A strong core is important, regardless of age, gender or lifestyle. Athletes most clearly display the advantages of the strong core. The reason