What are Core Muscles?

D. Messmer

Core muscles are the muscles in the body's lower and upper torso. Many of these muscles are below the surface of the body, so they are not visible even when an athlete has developed them. They are extremely important, though, because it is the core muscles that maintain proper posture and that protect the body's inner organs. They also are crucial to most athletic endeavors because almost all athletic movements utilize these muscles to some extent. There are a number of ways to work out the core, all of which will improve overall health and athletic performance.

An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body, including the abdominal muscles.
An anatomical illustration showing many muscles in the upper body, including the abdominal muscles.

Contrary to what many athletes believe, strengthening the core muscles involves a great deal more than simply performing a variety of exercises that target the abdominal muscles and back muscles. These muscles are part of the body's core, but it also includes muscles in the pelvic floor, hips and spine. To have a strong core, it is crucial that an athlete work all of these muscles.

Core exercises focus on muscular endurance rather than power.
Core exercises focus on muscular endurance rather than power.

These other muscles tend to get a lot less attention, though, because they are not visible. Strong core muscles might not be as recognizable as a set of developed abs, but they still are incredibly important to athletic performance and overall body health. The transverse abdominis, for example, is not visible because it lies beneath the abdominal muscles, but it nevertheless is responsible for keeping good posture and for protecting many of the internal organs located in the abdominal region. Similarly, the erector spinae, which are located along the spine, are not visible but are crucial to maintaining good posture and keeping the upper back in proper alignment. These muscles work with the transverse abdominis to keep the body's trunk stable and thus allow the limbs of the body to perform athletic motions.

Strengthening the core involves working the back muscles.
Strengthening the core involves working the back muscles.

It is important to develop and strengthen them all of the core muscles because of their importance in maintaining proper posture. Focusing only on some aspects of the body's core can lead to imbalances that can result in bad posture and back problems. There are several types of exercises that can provide this balanced approach. Workout systems such as yoga and Pilates engage the core in a variety of ways and thus provide a complete core workout. Similarly, exercises that require balance, especially those that use a workout ball or balance board, generally will provide a good workout for the core muscles.

Strengthening the abdominal and oblique muscles can help support the lower back.
Strengthening the abdominal and oblique muscles can help support the lower back.
Yoga encompasses many poses that engage the core muscles and help improve balance and posture.
Yoga encompasses many poses that engage the core muscles and help improve balance and posture.

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Discussion Comments


@bagley79 - I love using a workout ball to work my core muscles. I have found this to not only work my abdominal muscles, but also my spine and core back muscles.

Using a workout ball on a regular basis has also improved my balance and overall coordination.

One of my favorite exercises to strengthen my hips and spine is to lie down on the floor and rest my feet on the ball.

I slowly begin to lift my hips off the floor until I feel my body is in a straight line. I make sure and keep my abs tight, and hold this position for a few seconds.

Lower yourself to the floor and do about 10-12 repetitions of this. You will really feel this working your core muscle groups.


I have always concentrated on working my abdominal core muscles, but have neglected the other core muscles in my body.

After reading this article and the comments that have been posted, I realize that you can have strong abdominal muscles, yet still have weak core muscles.

I have one of those exercise balls among my exercise equipment, but the most it ever gets used is when my grandson comes over.

It sounds like I need to get this out and start working other core muscle groups like my hips and spine. My main reason for keeping in shape is to feel better and be healthy.

What are some of the best exercises I can use with a workout ball to strengthen the rest of my core muscles?


One of the biggest reasons I started incorporating Pilates into my exercise routine was to strengthen my core muscles.

Pilates strengthens core muscles like no other exercises I have done. Because these exercises are easily adaptable, they are great for every age and experience level.

Once I began to exercise my core muscles on a regular basis, I noticed that my lower back pain went away. This enabled me to have better posture and I feel much more toned up and stronger throughout my whole body.

Until I experienced myself how important it is to have strong core muscles, I didn't really realize how beneficial it is.


I was a sprinter in college and our strength trainer put a ton of emphasis on the core muscles. He had us do at least one entire workout every week that was dedicated to working our core.

People think of sprinters and think of the legs and the arms. But you have to have a strong core to maintain your posture as you sprint and to maximize the momentum created by your legs. A strong core can mean the difference between a 10.9 and a 10.5. In a race that close that time is everything.


I think one of the best ways to develop your core muscles is to workout on a bosu ball, one of those large inflatable balls that started popping up in gyms about 10 years ago.

There are lots of different core exercises that you can do using the dynamic motions of the bosu ball. Any good trainer can walk you through them. Core muscle exercises are crucial for full body strength. Lots of people neglect their core and end up with back injuries later.


Many people don't realize it, but everyone uses their core muscles every day. The ones who maintain good posture just use them more.

I can feel the muscles of my torso, particularly my abdominals, contracting and holding steady as I sit upright in my chair. As long as I don't lean all the way back, they have to do all the work to keep me upright.

When you walk with a straight spine instead of slumping your shoulders forward, your core muscles are tensing to keep you in correct posture. This all-day workout allows people who don't have time for exercise to still maintain their core strength, and it requires very little effort on their part.


Dance workouts are a great tool for building your core body muscles. You have to move your torso a lot and hold your abs in certain positions that work the muscles, and you can feel the burn as you dance.

I started doing a dance routine as my main workout. I do something that resembles standing crunches. I push down and in and hold the position with my abs, and my back and sides get in on the action, as well.

It is impossible to do a standing workout that involves your abdominal muscles without using the other muscles of your torso. Dance, and your entire body will get involved.


@shell4life - I used to do only crunches and situps when working on my core muscles. I thought that this covered everything, but really, these exercises were placing unnecessary strain on my neck while only building certain core muscles.

I heard from a personal trainer that the best core muscle workouts are the ones you can do while sitting or standing up. You don't have to lift yourself off of the floor and lower yourself back down to get a well-rounded core workout.

I got a stability ball and a workout video and started training. I was able to stretch and twist into a variety of positions, and this gave me an all-encompassing core workout. I would recommend that you find a video that focuses on the core and uses a stability ball.


So I guess it isn't true that crunches work your whole core. I have believed this for many years, and I have done them every other day in hopes of strengthening my core.

I do both forward and side crunches, and I assumed this was helping me out quite a bit. I'm still young, so I haven't started having back problems or posture issues yet.

What are some core exercises that I can be doing? I want to have a well-rounded routine that strengthens my whole torso, rather than just my abs.


29 muscles.


How many total number of core muscles in the body?

Including both local and global muscles?

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