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Sourced from Ian Markow, Markow Training Systems.

When the goal is to improve movement and performance, understanding the core muscles and their function is crucial for maximizing your training. Technically, core muscles include all the muscles of the trunk, pelvic floor, and hips surrounding the spine and abdominals. But we’ll focus on the four core muscles typically associated with the word ‘core.’

The four main core muscles Rectus Abdominis External Obliques Internal Obliques Transverse Abdominis.


In addition, each core muscle has an essential role in movement. The rectus abdominis, aka “six-pack,” is a paired muscle that runs vertically down the front of the abdomen. It flexes the trunk by bringing the rib cage towards the pelvis and vice versa. The external obliques are a pair of broad, flat muscles that run diagonally along the sides of the abdomen, extending from the lower ribs to the pelvis. They predominately rotate and laterally flex the trunk, along with the internal obliques. They also play a part in forced exhalation to breathe. And together with the rectus abdominis and internal obliques, they flex the trunk. The internal oblique is a paired muscle that sits just beneath the external oblique, running diagonally across the abdomen in the opposite direction. As with the external oblique, it rotates and laterally flexes the trunk and assists in trunk flexion. Additionally, the internal and external obliques also increase intra-abdominal pressure. For things like forced exhalation, bowel movement, coughing, or any force output that requires a stable core like a tennis shot. The transverse abdominis is a deep muscle that runs horizontally across the abdomen, beneath the more superficial rectus abdominis and oblique muscles. It plays a vital role in maintaining normal abdominal wall tension. It has a protective and supportive role, holding the abdominal organs in place. As with the other lateral abdominal muscles, transversus abdominis creates compression of the intra-abdominal viscera, increasing the intra-abdominal pressure.

TRAINING THE CORE MUSCLES Building a strong core requires a program that covers all the core muscles’ functions—flexion, rotation, and lateral flexion. While variety is the key to training the core muscles, many neglect the importance of breathing for building a strong core. Core breathing techniques can be used to ramp up core muscle activation in their training. The beauty of core breathing is that once you learn it, it’s easily transferable to any activity or sport you do to create more power and strength in any position. CORE BREATHING INVOLVES ENGAGING THE DIAPHRAGM AND PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES TO CREATE INTRA-ABDOMINAL PRESSURE. This intra-abdominal pressure can stabilize the spine, trunk, and hips. This allows you to create more force throughout the rest of the body. Whether hitting a tennis ball, doing a roundhouse kick, or jumping to slam a volleyball mid-air. By learning how to engage your diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles, you can improve your reduce your risk of injury and build a stronger and more stable core that supports your movement and performance goals.

Work with a Certified Fitness Coach to learn more.

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