Your core muscles are the most important muscle group in your body. Occupying areas in your lower back, hips, glutes, trunk, and stomach, core muscles are vital to many common movements, such as lifting, twisting, reaching, and bending. Normal, every day life requires almost constant use of the core muscles. While showier muscles in other parts of the body might attract more attention, a strong core is a critical component of good fitness.
Unfortunately, many people have weak, inadequate cores. Find out if you’re one of them by looking over the following six signs of weak core muscles.
- Lower back pain. The lower back is one of the most common sources for recurrent pain. If the muscles surrounding your spine are weak, the vertebrae and discs of your spine won’t be properly supported. The lower back is supposed to have a forward curve to it, but weak core muscles will make this position impossible, resulting in pain in the surrounding muscles and tendons. If you do not have a more serious back condition, any lower back pain is likely a result core weakness.
- Poor posture. The muscles of the abdomen and lower back combine to hold your spine and pelvis in place. If these muscles are weak, your body will be unstable, and you won’t be able to sit or stand erectly for more than a short period. Instead, you’ll habitually assume slouched, slumped positions, which in turn will strain your muscles. Only those with strong cores can maintain a healthy posture for long periods. Note that lower back pain and poor posture are closely connected, so one is often accompanied by the other.
- Bad balance. Your core muscles stabilize your entire body, so a weak core will affect your ability to balance. Since poor balance is not usually obviously noticeable, you’ll need to perform a test. Check your balance by standing on one foot with your eyes closed. Test one leg, than the other. If you can’t hold this position for at least ten seconds with both legs, your balance is subpar — probably because of an underdeveloped core.
- An inability to pass the ‘hollowing’ test. The simplest way to check core muscle strength is the hollowing test. Take a deep breath. As you begin exhaling, pull your stomach back towards your spine as far as you can. Hold this pose for ten full seconds — if you can’t make it that far, your core needs some work.
- General weakness. Muscular weakness in any part of the body can be a sign of an inadequate core. Since the core provides needed stability for almost all movements, weakness in the arms and legs may be a manifestation of core weakness. For example, such actions as punching, throwing, and kicking all depend on core muscles.
- Being unable to hold a plank. A plank is a popular abdomen exercise that can double as a test of your core strength. Perform a plank by entering push-up position, then holding your body so that your weight rests on your arms, elbows, and toes, with your hips held steady and level. Hold as long you can — if you can’t go at least 50 seconds before your hips give out, your core is probably too weak.
The power for most body movements is generated from the core, which means that a weak core will affect virtually everything you do. Clearly, improving a weak core is worthwhile. Fortunately, there are many simple exercises designed to strengthen the core muscles, so start working out if your core needs improvement.