Your core is your support system
Your core muscles play a huge role in your everyday activities, from getting out of bed, to walking down the street, and bending over to grab your purse—but, most importantly, they literally help you stay upright.
“That’s because your core muscles are the base of support for your entire body,” says Meredith McHale, P.T., D.P.T., regional clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy. They completely surround and support your spine and pelvis and connect your upper body and lower body, effectively transferring forces from one to the other.
Here’s an anatomy refresher: Your abs aren’t just one muscle. The deepest layer of abdominal muscles, and arguably the most important, is your transverse abdominis (sometimes called the “corset” or “Spanx” of the core), which stabilizes your spine and pelvis. Then you have two layers of oblique muscles, which control lateral flexion (think a side bend), rotation, and other spinal movements. Last but not least is the topmost muscle, the rectus abdominis, which runs vertically in the front of your abdomen and is the muscle you see as a six-pack. It flexes your torso forward, like in a crunch.
And when you’re talking about your whole core (versus just your abs), there are even more muscles involved: your pelvic floor muscles, the back muscles that stabilize your spine, and your diaphragm (the main muscle involved in breathing), says McHale.
“A strong core helps keep a more upright and erect posture whether you’re being active or just sitting at your desk,” says McHale. Think of it like the tree trunk of your body (albeit a lot more mobile): It has to hold its ground so that your branches (arms and legs) can do their ~thing~ any which way.